Tigers reap benefits of strong local youth wrestling programs
The youth movement is on.
The Douglas High wrestling program lost only seven seniors from last season’s Sierra League runner-up squad. This year, the Tigers are set to lose only two.
Five of the Tigers’ 2003-04 regional qualifiers are returning, and three of those qualified for state.
That said, it would seem enough to give any coach reason for plenty of optimism heading into a new season.
Add to it, however, that a monster-sized class of 38 freshmen and sophomores are taking to the mats for the Tigers this year, and it paints a pretty picture for the next several years of Douglas wrestling.
“This is the biggest team I’ve had here in my five years of coaching,” Douglas coach Mike Gamberg said. “It’s a testament to the quality of our feeder programs. The middle schools teams and the Douglas Wildcats (junior wrestling program) have really built us up with underclassmen.
“It’s very good for our future, we have a lot of youth this season.”
Returning from last season’s varsity squad are senior standout Brad Johnson (145 pounds), sophomore Devin Barker (103), sophomore Ryan Pruitt (135), junior Bryan Kaplan (112), heavyweight junior Matt Castro (225) and sophomore Jake Williams (130).
Johnson, a three-time state qualifier, Kaplan, a two-time state qualifier and Barker all advanced to state last year.
“Bradley is a great athlete and a great team leader,” Gamberg said. “It’s good to have him around and we’ll be sad to lose him next year.
“Matt Castro has the potential to qualify for state and place once he gets there, as does Ryan Pruitt. He is a phenomenal athlete, just one of those kids you want a hundred of. He has a great attitude and always works hard. He’s fun to be around and is an exceptional wrestler.”
Josh Hintze is the team’s other senior and Gamberg said his work ethic and tenacity could earn Hintze a spot on the varsity roster this season.
“He and Johnson are great leaders for this team,” Gamberg said.
Freshman Tony Ferris is expected to make a big contribution this season after posting a 23-1 record as an eighth-grader at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.
“He will be very good,” Gamberg said. “He’s a very tough kid and he’ll be one of our studs in the future.”
Sophomore Sean Molina should also figure into the mix on the varsity squad.
“His brother used to wrestle and he is just very motivated,” Gamberg said. “He’ll be good.
“This whole sophomore class is going to be very tough, the kids are learning every day. We have a lot of depth, but there is a lot of inexperience too. We have a couple of first year juniors who weren’t in the middle school or the junior program, so we are hoping that means the word is getting out that we work very hard but we also have some fun here.”
Gamberg said his team’s work ethic will be the key to success this season.
“We have a tendency to really start gelling at the end of the year,” he said. “They work hard week in and week out and it shows. These are some very fired up kids.
“We teach aggressive wrestling, and that is what you’ll see out on the mat. They are aggressive, under control and they won’t stop going.”