Blue-collar Cardinals’ work ethic paying off on the wrestling mats
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
PARACHUTE — Rick Gallegos readily admits there’s a little bit of madness that goes with the training regimen of the Grand Valley High School wrestling team — and it’s more than apparent.
“Sometimes I wonder if all of the basketball players look at us running through the hallway with our hands above our heads thinking that we’re crazy or something,” the 12th-year coach of the Cardinals said. “What we do with our guys is hard.”
For sure, there’s definitely a method to the madness that is the conditioning schedule of the Cardinals. The team has a daily workout schedule that, to some, would resemble basic training for the Marine Corps more than it would conditioning for a high school sport.
Gallegos even jokes that the reason the numbers are down for the school’s highly successful wrestling program stems from the fear of that intense training program. The wrestlers who are on the team, however, have more than embraced everything that comes with it.
“We know that everything he does, he does out of love,” said Grand Valley senior Miguel Valles, who wrestles at 126 pounds and is one of the Cardinals’ top wrestlers. “All of the training that we do might be hard, but it makes us better in so many ways.”
There’s been plenty of success that has come along for the Cardinals because of this training regimen. Grand Valley won its first — and only — state championship in wrestling in 2008. Last season, Cody Pfau, who is now a freshman wrestling for Oklahoma City University, became the first female in the state wrestling tournament to make it past the first round. And in all, even with limited numbers, Grand Valley has managed multiple state qualifiers annually.
A big part of it has to do with what the team members simply call “the sheet.” It refers to a sheet of paper that Gallegos gives out every day before practice. It’s always — always — one page, but there’s no guarantee how much material will be on that sheet. It lists, in detail, everything that the team has to do during the day.
“There are times when the guys will look at that sheet of paper and say, ‘Oh no. It’s six-point font!’” Gallegos said.
Still, the prospect of a tough training day, though initially discouraging, doesn’t deter the team member’s drive.
“There’s no way I could find a bad thing to say about him,” said Grand Valley wrestler Bryan Hegwood, one of the Cardinals’ top wrestlers at 182 pounds. “Some of those sheets can be pretty scary, but we know how much it’s going to pay off for us.”
The team will even turn their workouts into a competition. Some sweat so much, there have been times when wrestlers will take their shirts off after practice and wring the perspiration into cups, with the one filling their cup the most winning bragging rights as the day’s hardest worker.
And Gallegos not only sets the training itinerary for practices, but he’ll participate. One example is the Cardinals’ annual “Craft Fair Practice,” where the team not only helps break down the kiosks and stands that are set up at the annual craft fair in the Grand Valley High School gym, but they do a team run from DeBeque to Grand Valley High School, along old U.S. Highway 6 with vehicle escorts for safety, weather permitting. Weather wasn’t permitting this year, thanks to a heavy early snowfall, so Gallegos planned a run that day that was similar to the 14-mile run between the towns.
Gallegos will run with his team on that jaunt, and he said it’s his way of setting an example for his team that if he can do the workout, so can they. In all, however, he wants that effort to have a carry-over effect for his wrestlers on the mat, so when they finish competing, there’s no regrets.
“Not everyone has the same kind of ability,” Gallegos said. “All I’m looking for from everyone who wrestles for me is to leave everything on the mat and give their full effort. If they do that, I can’t ask for more.”
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.