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Wrestling season preview: Thunder ready to take two steps forward
After two third-place finishes, Discovery Canyon eyes title
Going into its sixth year of existence, Discovery Canyon’s wrestling program has already taken third at the state championships twice and, with two individual state champions and seven state qualifiers returning, is poised to take a step — or two — forward.
That goal is so primary among Thunder wrestlers that two-time state champion A.J. Rees is far less concerned with winning a third individual title than he is getting the school’s first team championship.
“My main goal this year is to win a team state title,” Rees said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get us as many points as possible for us to accomplish that.”
A wrestling prodigy, Rees came into his high school career with lofty individual goals. A loss in the 2010 championship match at 103 pounds to Lake County’s A.J. Salazar derailed the original plan.
“My goal coming into high school was to be a four-time state champ,” said Rees, who won his 4A state titles in 2011 and 2012. “Obviously, that’s not possible for me now.
“Honestly, that was my motivation through the next two years.”
Discovery Canyon’s two third-place finishes in five years is remarkable in that the team – and school, for that matter – didn’t have a senior until its third year.
But building a program from the ground up is nothing new for coach Ron Sukle. When he arrived at Highland High School in Ault as an assistant 18 years ago, the program had eight athletes. When he left four years later, the number exceeded 25.
He then went to Pine Creek, which was in its second year and thus had no seniors, and experienced the same gradual growth that would later help him at Discovery Canyon. After helping build Pine Creek into a perennial contender, Sukle got his first head coaching job with the first-year Thunder in 2008.
“Building isn’t anything new to me,” Sukle said. “Every place I’ve been, we started at the bottom.”
They haven’t stayed there.
“It’s been a long but very rewarding journey,”Sukle said. “If we get better every day, then each year we’ll have success.”
And if you get better each year, then state championships come within reach. Sukle’s team knows it’s a realistic, albeit difficult, goal.
“To win a team state title, everybody on the team has to contribute,” said Steve Turner, who won the state title at 130 last year. “Right now, we’re just all grinding, working, trying to fill out all the weight classes.
“We have to have everybody build and peak at the right time. As a team, if we keep working the way we are I think we have a good chance.”