The complexity of individual sports in team competitions


Avianna Echelmeyer

PREP TALK PEP TALKS: (left to right) Junior Luke Couglin, Senior Jake McLaughlin, Freshman Ezekiel Tacket and Freshman Jaycob Renteria give Senior varsity wrestler David Carrillo one last pep talk before he heads into his next match, giving him the motivation to give his all. This perfectly captures the spirit of the Mater Dei wrestling team, as described by the players. “We all support each other, and we all push each other to go further. “If someone is lacking, or [falling] behind we’ll motivate them to keep up.” Carillo says.

Mater Dei is well known for its athletics, but individual sports often do not have as large a following as team sports such as football, baseball, or even basketball. This disparity is demonstrated most clearly through each sports fanbase, or notoriety on campus. In addition, for those on the school wrestling team, there is an added pressure to perform at the highest level. Each player understands that their performance will affect their entire team and their chances at championships.

Senior, returning wrestling team member, and Trinity League champion David Carillo expresses his anxiety from wrestling. He feels pressure to not mess up or do something wrong during a match because he does not want to disappoint his coach.

Wrestling is an extremely competitive sport largely reliant on the strength of each wrestler. There are 14 different classes that wrestlers are categorized in based on both weight and height. For the lowest weight class wrestlers have to be at least 106 pounds and for the highest weight class wrestlers can be no more than 285 pounds. Weight classes help minimize injuries sustained during a match and work to match up opponents to create a fair fight. However, physical factors such as being at the bottom of a weight class, being shorter, or not as strong as one’s opponent create disadvantages within the class – especially since wrestlers are alone on the mat and are not offered additional help or assistance from a teammate.

Freshman and new to the wrestling team, JP Ulloa, shares this weight class sentiment. “You always want to be on the higher side of the weight class that you are in, so that you have as much of an advantage as possible,” Ulloa said.

Support from a community like the wrestling team on the sidelines, helps relieve some stress. However, as soon as the player is on the mat, their anxiety increases, as they know that their next move could put their entire team in jeopardy.

“Since all eyes are on you, there’s no one there to pick up your slack. This makes victory much harder to achieve but all the more sweeter when you do,” Ulloa said.

Like any sport, there are both concerns and surrounding factors that affect a player’s mindset. Wrestlers find their support from within the team. No matter what the outcome is, wrestlers know not to blame one of their teammates for a bad match. As a team, they have learned to support one another and help each other improve rather than spread blame.

“[The environment is] positive and supportive. We try to push each other to [the] limit, so we can continue to do well for each other,” returning junior wrestler Isaiah Rentería said.

Another pressure on the team is the overwhelming number of newcomers that have little or no experience wrestling either on a team or competitively, and therefore have to work twice as hard as someone who is extremely experienced, just like any other sport. Without prior experience, some wrestlers have to learn the basics from the beginning. This requires them to have to build courage and strength both physically and mentally before going out on the mat for their first match.

“You do not need to have any skill to start [wrestling]. Like most of the kids here, they started from not knowing anything. We kind of build from the ground up. They didn’t have any experience whatsoever in the sport,” Renteria said.

With pressures like weight, experience, and one-on-one combat, wrestlers feel anxiety in many ways. The wrestling community is united because everyone goes through those same emotions. In order to push through the pressure, they have learned not to be too hard on themselves for any mistakes they may make.

“[In team sports] you can fall back on someone. But [in wrestling] it’s different in that, it’s only you, and you don’t have someone else to save you if you mess up so it’s all based on your actions,” Carillo said.