FREMONT – If forced to boil down to one word what he aspires to bring to the Fremont Ross wrestling program, first-year head coach Matt Guhn would probably say, ‘Intensity.’
From the moment the Little Giants walk into the wrestling room, Guhn is holding them to high-expectations and highly-focused drills and conditioning.
But, underneath the hard-driving training is a sense of cooperation and fun while giving his athletes a sense of ownership in their own success.
“It’s really hard to have fun in wrestling,” Guhn said. “It helps if you’re winning but, at the same time, if you’re not having fun in practice, it will be harder to win in meets. So, it starts with having fun in the practice room and getting these kids in lots of live situations, working hard for an hour and 15 minutes, instead of showing up and going through the motions.”
Guhn has thrown new conditioning calisthenics at the Little Giants, incorporated yoga and gymnastics tumbling as well as workouts in the pool. While he’s kept his team on its toes, his athletes have impressed him by how readily they’ve taken to his methods.
“I haven’t been shut down with anything I’ve given them yet, we’re just starting to tap into some more advanced skill and they’re answering really well,” Guhn said.
“We have a lot of freak athletes on this team, I’m finding out. Now it’s about getting that potential out of them. There is a dozen of them that can do a front-hand spring like it’s nothing. It’s crazy, the athletic ability we have in this room. Now, the goal is to pull that into high-intensity wrestling. It’s coming together and it’s exciting to see the results from where we were back on Day 1.”
This weekend Ross will compete in only its second event of the season Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Mark Coleman Invitational at St. Joseph Central Catholic. Having had a lighter schedule to start the year has afforded Guhn a chance to get to know his athletes and glimpse what the year may have in store for his squad.
One point of optimism for the season is knowing an issue that was a consistent problem a year ago – being able to field an entire lineup for meets and tournaments – should be a thing of the past. With a full squad at varsity and JV levels, having to forfeit three or four weight classes at the onset of a match, should allow Ross to enjoy more team success.
But that team success will come with a slew of new faces. Of Ross’ five wrestlers who qualified for the district tournament last year, only one, senior Jackson Weissinger, returns.
As his most accomplished letter-winner returning, Guhn is excited to see how Weissinger leads the team on and off the mat.
“If Jackson will cut the risk and focus on the benefit, he will have a very successful senior year,” Guhn said. “Jackson is a great leader on the mat and off. Other wrestlers thrive to compete against him in our room, he always brings his A-game. We coaches are excited for the challenge to see if we can keep him focused on scoring, and not just scrambling. He is a freak athlete and a ton of fun to watch wrestle.”
Weissinger headlines a senior class that includes returners Bryce Moreland, Isaac Smith as well as Xavier Urbina and Jason Burling, newcomers to the program that Guhn hopes can provide depth and competition in practice and in meets.
“Bryce and Isaac have been around this sport their whole lives, now that they are both healthy, we coaches are very excited to see them compete,” Guhn said. “They are just as athletic as Jackson, and have the senior strength like Jackson as well.
“Speaking of strength, we scooped up Jason Burling before he gets into track season. Jason had been a great training partner for Ethan Green so far, now it’s time we compete Jason this weekend at SJCC.”
Green, a sophomore who placed third in his weight class in Ross’ season-opening tournament two weeks ago at Solon, is among a group of young wrestlers, Guhn believes have high potential.
“Our freshman class brings a lot of talent,” he said. “As soon as they start to believe in their offense, they will start winning the close matches. We are noticing great improvement with that class each week. Several have varsity spots and will maintain (in) that spot all year for us.”