By STEVE KRAH
There may be an â€œiâ€ in Triton, but thereâ€™s no â€œiâ€ in team.
And for the Trojans â€” under the direction of co-head coaches Matt Arvesen and Ron Brown â€” 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).
â€œWeâ€™re where we are at because we kept the idea of team,â€ Arvesen said. â€œEverybodyâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™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.â€
Arvesen said talk about â€œTeam Stateâ€ 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.
â€œ(Going to the State Duals) was nice because they kept everybody else focused on the team aspect,â€ Arvesen said. â€œWe were never going to see the light of day, going to State with the Warren Centrals and the Penns. We just arenâ€™t there as far as the level of commitment kids need as whole year-round to develop into that kind of team.
â€œWhereas, 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).
â€œLast year, the experience was fantastic.â€
Even the kids who set the stage and had since graduated were there to cheer on the Trojans.
â€œThey took a break from college and made the trip to Fort Wayne,â€ Arvesen said. â€œIt was cool to see everybody come together like that.â€
The athletes on the current squad are young and talented and still very team-oriented.
â€œItâ€™s really nice that we have some kids who have learned how to lead,â€ Arvesen said. â€œBut with all the young kids, we are focused on learning technique.
â€œDown 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 whatâ€™s going to take you to that highest level.â€
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 schoolâ€™s head football coach.
A traditionally-strong basketball community, wrestling is now creating a buzz and crowds at Tritonâ€™s gym aka â€œThe Trojan Trench.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve gotten more numbers (out for the team),â€ Brown said. â€œPeople have been talking about our success. It was a big deal the first time we qualified for (the State Duals).â€
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 â€” led by the high school coaches â€” and progress as they move up the ladder. The move set doesnâ€™t change from fourth grade up to high school.
â€œBy the time they are freshmen, they pretty much know all the basics and we can get into the more complicated stuff,â€ Thompson said. â€œWe can just move along. We donâ€™t have to stop and take time to say â€˜this is the double-leg (takedown), this is the Half (Nelson).â€™ Weâ€™ve already taken care of those things in the younger years.â€
The idea is to keep the lingo simple.
â€œWe all have the same terminology,â€ Arvesen said. â€œI can say something to any one of my kids and theyâ€™re going to understand what weâ€™re talking about and what we want them to do during the match.â€
Some donâ€™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.
â€œMost of our success can be attributed to getting them to buy in at a very young age,â€ Thompson said. â€œIt really starts when we get the kids in junior high and they really buy into our system. Heâ€™ll have confidence in you as a coach if you have a good relationship with him.
â€œIf he knows you want him to be successful and youâ€™ll work hard for him as long as he returns the favor for you. If you can get the kids to buy in early, theyâ€™ll do that for you throughout their career.â€
Brown said itâ€™s not just about takedowns and pinning combinations at Triton.
â€œWe care more about them as people than athletes and I think they see that,â€ Brown said. â€œThey put out a lot of effort for us. Itâ€™s a unique situation here. We see them so much in the classroom and in other sports.â€
Consequently, the Trojans are close-knit.
â€œYou can see it in how we handle them when they come off the mat after a tough loss or in the wrestling room,â€ Brown said. â€œItâ€™s all very respectful and in a caring manner.â€
Greene, now a senior 132-pounder, enjoys the family atmosphere of the Triton program as well as the coaching staffâ€™s ability to get the most out of their athletes.
â€œCoaches drill us in a certain way to battle and fight for every point,â€ Greene said. â€œWhat makes us successful is that we donâ€™t give up.â€
Junior Vincent Helton (182) said the Trojans give it â€œeverything we haveâ€ at practices which typically include plenty of drill work and time for a little fun.
â€œEveryone is focusing in the room and listening to what the coaches are telling us and working hard,â€ Helton said. â€œWe cheer each other on. Weâ€™re their backing each other up.â€
Even as sophomores, 195-pounder Cameron Scarberry and heavyweight Billy Smith have their ideas of what makes Triton successful.
Scarberry: â€œItâ€™s our coachesâ€™ enthusiasm for the sport and their constant reminding us that itâ€™s an individual sport, but itâ€™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.â€
Smith: â€œWe have great coaches. They love wrestling just as much as the kids do. You canâ€™t do good if the coach doesnâ€™t love wrestling. Our coaches never put us down. They expect us to do our best (no matter the level of opponent).â€
Because theyâ€™re all into it TOGETHER.