#WrestlingWednesday: Monrovia Seeing Success on the Mat and Gridiron
Brought to you by EI Sports
By JEREMY HINES
Two wrestlers. That is all Monroviaâ€™s high school team had competing in the first meet of the season. A few months later the Bulldogs were claiming third place at Team State, with 22 wrestlers on the roster.
That is typical for wrestling at Monrovia, a powerhouse football school. The Bulldogs highly encourage wrestlers to play football, and football players to wrestle. They believe the two sports go hand-in-hand.
Monrovia won the class 2A football state championship on November 28. That was one week after the schoolâ€™s first wrestling meet.
â€œWe went from two kids to 22 after football was over,â€ Monrovia coach Kevin Blundell said. â€œI get a lot of freshmen and sophomores that have never wrestled before. The kids that wrestle are really good on the football field. They say wrestling helps them. The football coach pushes all the linemen, especially, to wrestle.â€
Monrovia is used to early struggles in wrestling. Kids come in after football in football shape, not in wrestling shape.
â€œItâ€™s harder than what you think to get these guys in wrestling shape,â€ Blundell said. â€œA lot of people see a running back and think heâ€™s in shape. But wrestling is a totally different thing. Itâ€™s challenging. A lot of these kids come in way over weight. We focus initially on getting in shape, and then we start to hit the technique side in practice.â€
Junior Garrison Lee, the teamâ€™s only returning state qualifier, is a prime example. Lee was the starting fullback on the football team. Any time the Bulldogs needed five yards on the ground, Lee was their go-to-guy. But he came in to wrestling quite a bit over weight and not at all ready to go three long periods on the mat with an opponent.
â€œHe was a monster,â€ Blundell said. â€œI didnâ€™t think he would make 195. I think I talked to him at football regionals and asked him what he was weighing, and he just told me that I didnâ€™t want to know.â€
Eventually the Monrovia wrestlers settled in to their weight classes, and then the successes started rolling. The team had three champions at the Mooresville sectional, and sent six to regional. Lee won regional, with sophomore Brycen Denny finishing third at 106 pounds and 220 pounder Dristin McCubbins, a senior, finishing second.
â€œBrycen (39-2) has worked very hard to get to where heâ€™s at,â€ Blundell said. â€œHeâ€™s been in football forever, but heâ€™s only 106 pounds so he decided this season heâ€™s just going to wrestle. Then the team wins state. But heâ€™s still happy with the decision he made. It was what was best for him.
â€œGarrison was our only qualifier last year. He knows what he needs to do. Heâ€™s been there and lost a really close match last year. He has had that lingering in his mind. Heâ€™s has a motor on him and heâ€™s mentally tough.â€
Also advancing for the Bulldogs is Dristinâ€™s younger brother Riley, a 29-11 sophomore heavyweight.
â€œWhen Riley qualified I was very happy to see that,â€ Dristin said. â€œWe became the first brothers in Monrovia history to both qualify for semistate at the same time.â€
For Blundell, those early days with just two wrestlers competing seem like a distant memory. He knows that will probably always be the case at Monrovia, where football reigns supreme. But heâ€™s fine with that. He knows, once football is over, wrestling really begins.
â€œThis is a school where the parents are really great,â€ Blundell said. â€œThey donâ€™t want their kids sitting around doing nothing, so they put them in a lot of sports. They push their kids to do their best and they give me a green light to do whatever we need to do. This is a football school, but weâ€™re becoming a wrestling school as well.â€