Wrestling team rebuilds after seniors graduate

Taking up the challenge of guiding a team comprised of mostly freshmen athletes, team captain Dan Villalba leads a group with multiple new members. The team’s record, as this issue goes to press, is 4-9.

Rebuilding their experience with a new team captain, the 2019-20 wrestling team started practicing in late November and began their matches in early December.
The current wrestling team consists of many new freshman members.
With limited upperclassmen, this is the team’s “rebuilding year,” according to head coach Tristian Boyd.
“We graduated nine seniors last year, three of them are wrestling division one right now,” Boyd said. “We lost a lot of our experience.”
With several graduates gone, there is only one senior left to catch the responsibility for his fellow wrestlers.
Wrestling team captain Dan Villalba has taken charge over a new team.
“It feels good to know that they all look up to me and that I have some power in the room,” Villalba said.
Villalba usually aids the coaches during practice.
He will lead the warm-ups or give directions to the team.
“I think he’s doing pretty well,” manager Kate Taipale said. “It’s tough coming from a bunch of seniors and being one of the only juniors last year and having all those guys to look up to. Then they’re all gone because they were the main dynamic of the group so it all fell on his shoulders.”
The sport requires a good amount of physical strength, but Boyd likes to see more in his members.
“Wrestling instills discipline, respect, hard work and we want our wrestlers to exhibit all those characteristics in what they do,” Boyd said.
In Boyd’s eyes, Villalba contains all of the characteristics for what it takes to be a leader.
“When I spoke to [Villalba] at the end of last year, he had all the attributes we were looking for,” Boyd said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s respectful. We see him in practice looking out for other people, positively reinforcing the expectations.”
As well as being team captain, Villalba also serves as a role model for his other teammates, especially incoming freshmen on the team.
“Out of everyone on the team he has a lot of experience and he knows how the team runs, he teaches the freshmen how to act at tournaments and in the practice room, he’s just that figure-head,” manager Maggie Williams said.
According to Taipale, last year’s seniors “knew each other since kindergarten and first grade,” while this year’s wrestlers are still building their relationships.
“Something that connects us is the hard work we do every day and just the fact that you’re going through something hard during practice you also know that the rest of the guys are doing the same thing,” Villalba said.
For Villalba, wrestling was a “personal choice.”
As a result of being the only senior on the team this year, Villalba has gained leadership responsibilities that he is handling well, according to Boyd.
“[Villalba] leads not only with his words but by example and what he does on a daily basis, he works hard, asks questions, he holds himself accountable as everyone else in the practice room and that’s all we can ask for,” Boyd said.