A four-day wrestling camp would be tough enough, but set it outdoors and make the participants camp out can make things extra difficult. If that’s not enough, add a whitewater rafting trip and a two-day van ride from Arizona to Colorado.
That is exactly what the Marana wrestling team undertook last week when they attended the Wrestle the World Outdoor Team Camp in Pagosa Springs, Colo.
The camp was tough. The workouts were rigorous and Marana coach Bruce Hiley would not have it any other way. It was not easy, but wrestling is not an easy sport and by undergoing the rigors of the camp, the Tigers had a unique bonding opportunity.
“The bonding is huge,” Hiley said. “The bonding is a really big part of it, simply because the leaders come out of there every year. The guys who are going to lead the team come out of the camp every year. We have some young guys step up. Every year you see some leaders emerge.”
“The camp was fun, the best part was the bonding with the rest of the team,” concurred Marana wrestler David Tilley.
Campers stay in tents and deal with the elements, although they no longer wrestle outside like they used to at the event.
“Virtually all of them are in tents,” Hiley said. “They are covering the baseball field. They are covering the football field. It is a true camping environment. After all of the wrestling stuff you come back and chill by the campfire.”
Each day, campers wake up at 6 a.m. for morning conditioning, which includes running up steep elevations in the hilly town 60 miles east of Durango. The final day of conditioning added a wet, chilly surprise.
“They told all of the campers if they ran in all the way to their heads, they could come on in and go to the showers,” said Hiley. “The water was about 40 degrees.”
The conditioning is made tougher with cold temperatures, it was 27 degrees one morning at an elevation of 7,200-feet.
After their morning runs, the campers have breakfast and then go through three hours of skills instructions from the camp coaches. After lunch, the Tigers, along with camp participants, wrestled up to five matches a day.
This year, the team left a few days early. They spent the night in Gallup, N.M., which included a morning run up a sheer, sandy rock face and then a whitewater rafting trip the day before the camp opened. For all but one wrestler it was their first time rafting.
“They had a blast, I had a great time as well,” Hiley said.
The team first started going to the camp under former coach Rob Lindsay and have continued under Hiley. In addition to the team bonding, Hiley loves the fact that Coach Terry Brands and most of the other coaches are Iowa wrestlers, which means they teach a very physical brand of wrestling. It is a style that Hiley likes and hopes his team can employ.
“Compared to Arizona wrestling, the wresting we see up there is way more physical,” Hiley said. “The referees up there are Iowa wrestlers and Iowa coaches. In the three and a half days of competition we did not see one unnecessary roughness call. We did not see one crossface that was too hard. It’s just wrestling. It’s more physical. We want them to see that when they come back to Arizona is just not that bad.”
The style cannot be fully implemented in Arizona, but the ideas behind it can. Hiley adapts it to fit within the Arizona rules and so far the Tigers have had a lot of success with it.
Hiley usually brings a large number of upperclassmen to the camp, but this year his team will be younger. Of the 16 wrestlers, 11 will be sophomores or younger next season. The regular season roster will be similarly young. The time in Pagosa Springs has already paid off for many of his younger grapplers.