Local tough guys look to gain experience
Some might think it would be challenging to continue to develop a young wrestling program in what some might call Utah’s wrestling country. With national powerhouse Wasatch in one direction and top state programs at North and South Summit in the other, it seems that schools like Park City and The Oakley School might give up before they hit the mat. Instead, it serves to push them even harder.
"The guys that are here it makes them want to work even harder, because they don’t have the experience," said head coach Eric O’Connor.
Both of the young teams headed to Salt Lake for a quad meet against Woods Cross and host, Granger. Although neither team won the meet they both held their own and gained experience in the process. Park City has only 14 wrestlers, but O’Connor and assistant coach Chris Spealler are committed to creating a successful developmental program. Currently, they have a grade school-aged group and plan to add a junior high club team soon. "Hopefully these other programs will build something for the future," O’Connor said. The Oakley School is in its first year as a program under the direction of Russell Love. Park City’s biggest challenge is that they do not have boys wrestling in four weight classes. This discrepancy causes them to forfeit 24 points in every meet. Still, the team managed to beat Oakley, win two matches against Woods Cross, and would have beat Granger with five wins, had it not been for the forfeitures. "I was very pleased," O’Connor said. This year, The Miners are returning five starters from last year’s quad, including Charlie Sisk in the 112-pound weight class, who was undefeated at 4-0 in the Granger meet. Team captains Brent Ryberg and T.J. Gannon also performed well in the 140- and 145-pound weight classes, respectively, winning half of their contests. O’Connor is also excited about two new freshmen who entered the program. Kenny Hixson is in his first year of wrestling, and O’Connor expects him to do well in the 152-weight class as the season goes on. Jake Knight, who recently moved into the area, will look to contend in the 150-pound weight class. O’Connor hopes to take the positives and negatives he observed in the Granger meet and help the team prepare for the challenging upcoming meets. He says that he focuses heavily on perfecting the basics in practice to help the team perform better. "That’s all you really need. I won matches with them at six years old and on through college," O’Connor said. O’Connor, a native of Central Pennsylvania and a college wrestler at Lock Haven University, is taking over the reins as head coach this year, after being an assistant to Spealler previously. When Spealler’s work schedule became too busy, the two made the logical switch. O’Connor says that the transition has been very smooth. "They know what to expect. Chris and I have similar styles and philosophy styles in coaching," O’Connor said. The Miners will spend the next few weeks preparing for the North Summit Invitational, one of the larger and more challenging tournaments in the area. O’Connor is looking forward to the match, so his team can gain more competitive experience. "The best thing for a lot of our guys is getting out on the mat, getting better," O’Connor said. "You learn things from experience." The Miners will also have a challenging season with Wasatch and other tough teams in Region 10. "Our region is a very tough region. For our guys it will be a learning process," O’Connor said. "From what we know now, I think they will get a lot better. Some of the guys are a lot better and they will fare pretty well." The Miners first home meet will be against South Summit on Dec. 21 in the Park City High School gym.
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