After finishing 19th in 5A in 2022 and qualifying six wrestlers for state, the Buffs are looking to improve in the team standings, athletically and academically, as well as in the number of individual state qualifiers. With 5A being the largest of all of the classifications, Tooele has its work cut out for them, but second year head coach Barrett Willson is positive that his team is up for the challenge, not only athletically, but also academically.
After losing Parker Hansen (4th place finisher) and Mason Flygare to graduation, Willson returns four state qualifiers in seniors Dalton McQuiddy, Ty Proctor and Ethan Garcia as well as junior Antonio Mascarenas.
Willson and his cadre of coaches (K.C. Hansen, Larry Evans, Nick Gortat, Brett Fenwick and Josh Gustin) are working hard to build on the good that has been established in the past at Tooele and are moving forward with a new team creed, in addition to the mantra “Purple Mat Pride.”
Academics are a special focus this year as Willson believes that “excellence in the classroom will translate into excellence on the mat.” He is committed to developing complete student-athletes, emphasizing “student” while working to build the athletes.
At a recent team meeting Willson told his wrestlers, “We are asking you to juggle two worlds, and you need to make a decision if you can handle both the classroom and wrestling.”
He continued, “If you have to choose between graduating and wrestling, graduation is most important.”
“Out of the 52 boys on the team, we have all but 15 wrestlers who had a 3.0 or higher for the first quarter,” Willson explained. “We want to not just compete on the mat, but we want to compete academically in the region as well.”
“We have programs to help our wrestlers succeed academically. If they want to compete on the mat, they need to have no Fs and a 2.0.,” he outlined. “We have study hall each week, and they have to show us that they have no Ds or Fs. We believe by seeing the bar high academically, we can raise the bar athletically as well.”
In an effort to reach their goal of qualifying more wrestlers for state, Tooele has scheduled more varsity tournaments to give all wrestlers more varsity experience to improve their seeding at state. “If we put the odds in our favor,” Willson explained, “then we can qualify more of our athletes for state.”
“Uintah (2022 State Champions) and Payson (2022 Runners Up) won the tournament by over 100 points. We want to qualify more guys and give ourselves a chance to be up there in the top four spots in 5A,” he outlined their strategy.
The Buffs opened against Grantsville at home Tuesday, November 22. They will have five more home matches: December 1 (Uintah and Hillcrest); December 8 (Cedar Valley); December 13 (Jordan); December 14 (Stansbury) and an early senior night, January 3 (Riverton).