Wrestlers take to the mats

“When you treat it like a serious game, it’s like playing chess.” 

Most would not compare the sport of wrestling to chess, but those who know the game know the strategy behind it, like junior varsity coach Chris Depalma.

Wrestling is officially in season as of November. They have hosted and attended multiple meets against other schools with the most recent being against Rio Mesa on Dec. 14. 

“I’m actually a Jiu Jitsu instructor. I’ve started with Jiu Jitsu my whole life but I’ve coached wrestling on and off for the past ten years,” Depalma said. When he was in high school, he wrestled his freshman year at Camarillo High School and junior year at Newbury Park High School. 

“I have a 12 year old who wrestles with a lot of the high school students and he trains with them,” Depalma said, “He will be wrestling for Newbury Park when he gets older.” Both of Depalma’s parents went to Newbury Park High School.

“I like how technical (wrestling) is. I also like that it’s a hundred percent you get your team to train with but you know, it’s on you,” Depalma said, “If you win, you get to celebrate for yourself and if you lose you have to take it on yourself and figure out how to get better.” As one of four coaches for junior varsity wrestling, part of his responsibility is putting the wrestlers in a positive mindset before competing in a match. 

“I tell them not to think so much, to treat it like a serious game, not like a fight,” Depalma said, “You’re focused but your mind’s empty. You’re not thinking super hard, and allow your body to use its muscle memory like you’ve been drilling at practice.” One of his players knows the success behind Depalma’s words and reflects back on his first victory.

“I remember it was against Rio Mesa. I was wrestling. I didn’t know what I was doing. The guy jumped off me. The ref raised my hand and yeah, it was just really really exciting,” Ren Blanke, junior, said. While winning matches is a large aspect of the wrestling experience, the friendships created while training with the team are just as important.

 “The team dynamic in our room is like a family. We are all really close and good friends which helps us push each other even further,” Brett Philbrook, senior, said. However, underneath it all, wrestling is a complex sport that rewards practice and goal-setting.

“My favorite part about wrestling isn’t the sport itself, but the lessons it teaches,” Philbrook said. “You work for what you want.”

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