#MondayMatness: Team focus has been good to small but mighty TritonMondayMatness Trition
By STEVE KRAH
There may be an “i” in Triton, but there’s no “i” in team.
And for the Trojans — under the direction of co-head coaches Matt Arvesen and Ron Brown — team is the most important thing.
That philosophy has helped a school that is small (enrollment 265) become mighty in the wrestling community.
Bolstered by the attitude and success of the Class of 2015 (then-sophomore 106-pounder Malachi Greene, senior 152-pounder, Grant Stichter, junior 160-pounder Gage Waddle and senior 170-pounder Nate Spangle) won their weight class at the Plymouth Sectional), Triton went to its first Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals in 2015-16 (placing 10th in Class 1A).
Waddle defended his sectional crown as a senior last winter.
The Trojans have been invited back to the State Duals for 2016-17 (the meet is Friday, Dec. 23 at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne).
“We’re where we are at because we kept the idea of team,” Arvesen said. “Everybody’s important. No person is more important than anybody else. Even my best guys will take the time to work with the younger kids, even if they have to sacrifice a little of their practice time.
“It’s really nice that we have some kids who have learned how to lead in the room but, ultimately, it stems back to that (Class of 2015) group. They were all about each other and how the team was doing.”
Arvesen said talk about “Team State” had been going on at the Marshall County school for four or five years and then Triton qualified and it really bolstered the program even more.
“(Going to the State Duals) was nice because they kept everybody else focused on the team aspect,” Arvesen said. “We were never going to see the light of day, going to State with the Warren Centrals and the Penns. We just aren’t there as far as the level of commitment kids need as whole year-round to develop into that kind of team.
“Whereas, we saw as an opportunity to get our kids to focus on the team and get the numbers out in the room, we could (earn an invitation to a classed dual tournament).
“Last year, the experience was fantastic.”
Even the kids who set the stage and had since graduated were there to cheer on the Trojans.
“They took a break from college and made the trip to Fort Wayne,” Arvesen said. “It was cool to see everybody come together like that.”
The athletes on the current squad are young and talented and still very team-oriented.
“It’s really nice that we have some kids who have learned how to lead,” Arvesen said. “But with all the young kids, we are focused on learning technique.
“Down the line, your condition is going to play a role, your strength is going to play a role, but ultimately, your level of technique and how well you do your best stuff is what’s going to take you to that highest level.”
Arvesen wrestled for coach Bob Read at Plymouth High School and was an IHSAA State Finals qualifier as a sophomore in 1998 at 171 pounds then placed fifth at the IHSAA State Finals as a junior in 1999 at 189 and second as a senior in 2000 at 189. He was on the coaching staff at Yorktown High School while attending Ball State University and picked up technique from Troy Dulaney (now at Daleville).
Brown, a 1999 graduate of Crosswell-Lexington High School in Michigan, was on the wrestling staffs at Richmond and Marion high schools before coming to Triton. Last fall marked his second as the school’s head football coach.
A traditionally-strong basketball community, wrestling is now creating a buzz and crowds at Triton’s gym aka “The Trojan Trench.”
“We’ve gotten more numbers (out for the team),” Brown said. “People have been talking about our success. It was a big deal the first time we qualified for (the State Duals).”
Triton graduates Jason Thompson (who is also head junior high wrestling coach) and Brock Vermillion and Wawasee graduate Shaun Belin are also part of the Trojans wrestling coaching staff. Arvesen and Thompson also help coach football.
Triton wrestlers begin learning a core of basic moves in the kids club — led by the high school coaches — and progress as they move up the ladder. The move set doesn’t change from fourth grade up to high school.
“By the time they are freshmen, they pretty much know all the basics and we can get into the more complicated stuff,” Thompson said. “We can just move along. We don’t have to stop and take time to say ‘this is the double-leg (takedown), this is the Half (Nelson).’ We’ve already taken care of those things in the younger years.”
The idea is to keep the lingo simple.
“We all have the same terminology,” Arvesen said. “I can say something to any one of my kids and they’re going to understand what we’re talking about and what we want them to do during the match.”
Some don’t step on the mat until they reach high school. But those who experience wrestling and start building a report with the coaches early at Triton have a real chance to succeed.
“Most of our success can be attributed to getting them to buy in at a very young age,” Thompson said. “It really starts when we get the kids in junior high and they really buy into our system. He’ll have confidence in you as a coach if you have a good relationship with him.
“If he knows you want him to be successful and you’ll work hard for him as long as he returns the favor for you. If you can get the kids to buy in early, they’ll do that for you throughout their career.”
Brown said it’s not just about takedowns and pinning combinations at Triton.
“We care more about them as people than athletes and I think they see that,” Brown said. “They put out a lot of effort for us. It’s a unique situation here. We see them so much in the classroom and in other sports.”
Consequently, the Trojans are close-knit.
“You can see it in how we handle them when they come off the mat after a tough loss or in the wrestling room,” Brown said. “It’s all very respectful and in a caring manner.”
Greene, now a senior 132-pounder, enjoys the family atmosphere of the Triton program as well as the coaching staff’s ability to get the most out of their athletes.
“Coaches drill us in a certain way to battle and fight for every point,” Greene said. “What makes us successful is that we don’t give up.”
Junior Vincent Helton (182) said the Trojans give it “everything we have” at practices which typically include plenty of drill work and time for a little fun.
“Everyone is focusing in the room and listening to what the coaches are telling us and working hard,” Helton said. “We cheer each other on. We’re their backing each other up.”
Even as sophomores, 195-pounder Cameron Scarberry and heavyweight Billy Smith have their ideas of what makes Triton successful.
Scarberry: “It’s our coaches’ enthusiasm for the sport and their constant reminding us that it’s an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. We need to work hard and be intense through practices so we can do well individually and as a team. (Getting ready for State Duals) really gives us the boost of confidence we need to do better.”
Smith: “We have great coaches. They love wrestling just as much as the kids do. You can’t do good if the coach doesn’t love wrestling. Our coaches never put us down. They expect us to do our best (no matter the level of opponent).”
Because they’re all into it TOGETHER.