Although Arcadia High School’s wrestling program was reinstated only three years ago, head coach Aaron Simpson has put together a team that is challenging veteran schools. This past year, the team’s accomplishments include a student who qualified for state and placed in the top eight.
For nearly four decades, Arcadia High didn’t have a wrestling team. However, in 2017, a couple of Arcadia dads with wrestling backgrounds decided to start the program once again. Kevin Hunt and Matt Waltz started a fundraiser to help put together the new wrestling team, and in 2018, Simpson was hired as head coach, with plans to revamp and reignite interest in wrestling.
“It’s a process,” Simpson said. “Many of our students come to Arcadia without knowing there’s a wrestling program. Most of the students haven’t even seen a mat, and it’s tough getting the students to partake and do well because the practice is tough.”
Simpson is still helping these novice students make it to higher level tournaments. Beyond the tournaments, the benefits of the program can be seen.
Simpson states that there has been positive feedback about the program. Students are excited about the wrestling, and they recognize it’s a tough sport and that they are doing something out of the norm.
Simpson says that the parents also love the program because it’s helping their kids keep grades up. The students are gaining a new perspective because they don’t want to let the team down.
Jake Waltz, a junior at Arcadia High, talked about the benefits of the program, saying, “It has benefitted me by making me a stronger individual, not only mentally but also physically. The atmosphere and the brotherhood of the wrestling team is different than any other sport. I think all the hard work and dedication forges a bond stronger than in other sports.”
With no awards under their belts just yet, the wrestling team is considered to be the underdogs – but they’re going against schools with 40 years of wrestling program experience, which Simpson said isn’t easy to compete with.
The wrestling program recently introduced something new to their ranks: the first ever Lady Titans wrestling team.
Freshman Raya Christiansen, sophomore Kaitlyn Kelly, juniors Aaliyah Terrazas and Cameron Sanchez and senior Fernanda Moreno participated in their first match in mid-January.
At the match, Kaitlyn scored the first points ever and Aaliyah recorded the first “win and pin” at 4 minutes 51 seconds of the match.
“The girls performed well in their first ever matches versus experienced opponents,” said Coach Nafrada. “Our girls have only been wrestling since December as we were not sure there was interest in forming a girls’ team until a month after the boys started the season, so we were at a disadvantage trying to get caught up on skills.”
Nafrada explained that the girls were nervous and showed it off the mat.
“Calming them down was much more important than reminding them of their technique.
Obviously, they were shell-shocked as they walked off, but after some time passed, they were ready to go again,” Nafrada said. “They had no idea how it would feel going out on the mat by themselves in front of a home crowd, trying to execute in this sport they had only been introduced to a month before.”
Each player was able to participate in her own match at the first meet.
“It was great watching my girls representing their school for the very first time,” Nafrada said. “I was nervous but I’m all about performance over results and I could not be happier with what these girls did on the mat.”
The Division 3 Section 3 state qualifier will take place on February 8, with the state tournament close behind in Prescott on February 14-15.