Bullfrog Grapplers Back On The Mat


Inside the Bret Harte High School gymnasium are two doors tucked away in a corner. Behind those doors is the Bret Harte wrestling room. For years, that room was the home to many talented wrestlers, most notably the current UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw.

However, those doors were shut in late December 2016, and the Bret Harte wrestling program was forced to tap out. There was little interest in the program, as students didn’t want to wrestle. For head coach and Bret Harte alumni Mike Borean, having to shut the program down was something he did not relish.


“That was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever had to do in this sport,” Borean said. “It was a heart-wrenching decision to make.”

That will not be the case this year. The doors to the wrestling room are once again open and Bullfrog wrestlers are back to grappling. Although there are only seven wrestlers, Borean feels that the rebuilding of the program is off to a good start.

Bullfrog grapplers back on the mat

There are once again Bullfrog wrestlers inside the Bret Harte wrestling room.

“My goal this year is to get them as much mat time as I can,” Borean said. “We’ve got a bunch of JV tournaments lined up, so we can get them in and introduced to the sport. But these kids are showing a great love for the sport and we will build off of this for next year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to double or triple the numbers.”

Borean wanted to get the program back up and running, but he knew that he couldn’t do it alone. So he sought out the help of someone who had never wrestled a match for Bret Harte. Kodiak Stephens was set to begin his freshman year when Borean asked him to help find students to join the wrestling program.

“I put some pressure on him over the summer,” laughed Borean. “I told him that I needed him to recruit kids and he did. Almost all of these kids are here because of him.”

Stephens had no problem trying to get fellow students to join the wrestling team, for if there was no wrestling program at Bret Harte, Stephens might not have been a Bullfrog.

“I was going to go to Calaveras if there wasn’t a program here,” Stephens said. “I’ve been wrestling for eight or nine years now and if there wasn’t a program here, I would have gone there to wrestle. I was pretty worried about going to Calaveras because I didn’t know anyone there, so I was trying to get guys to come out for the team.”

Bullfrog grapplers back on the mat

Bullfrog freshman wrestler Kodiak Stephens is a major reason why wrestling is back at Bret Harte. 

The first place Stephens went to locate potential wrestlers was football practice. Stephens played junior varsity football and he was able to pique the interest in wrestling with teammate Juanmanuel Alva Rado Dela Cruz.

“Kodiak seemed like a guy who was really in love with the sport,” Alva Rado Dela Cruz said. “He would always talk about it and would even bring it up during football. He was a great football player and wrestling impacts football in a positive way. So I guess that’s what made me want to get into wrestling.”

Not everyone who Stephens convinced to give wrestling a try enjoyed it as much as Alva Rado Dela Cruz. Wrestling is a difficult sport and just because the numbers were low, that didn’t mean that anyone was going to get an easy ride. Seeing wrestlers come and go is nothing new for Stephens.

“If I had a nickel for every time someone quit wrestling, I’d be a millionaire by now,” laughed Stephens. “It’s just the tough mentality of the sport. It’s not like boxing, where you can just take a hit and punch someone back. You have to control your opponent to win a match and that takes a lot of effort.”

Stephens wants the Bret Harte program to be what it once was. Knowing that he and his six teammates are the young men who are putting the pieces back together is something they can all be proud of.

“That definitely excites me, especially because when I’m a junior, my brother will be here,” Stephens said. “The guys that we have now are really committed and they are showing some great skills. I feel pretty confident that the program is here to stay for a little while.”

Bullfrog grapplers back on the mat

Bret Harte head wrestling coach Mike Borean is enjoying working with the new wrestling team. 

Aside from Stephens, no other Bret Harte wrestler had ever laced up a pair of wrestling shoes. So like anything new, Borean started at the very beginning. And like any good wrestler will say, it’s all about the proper technique.

“You begin with how to stand, how to move and how to shoot,” said Borean. “The big problem that we have is that in a normal room, you have upperclassmen or experienced wrestlers. So when novices come in, they’ll do silly, classic mistakes and they get punished for those in the first two weeks of practice.”

The young Bret Harte wrestling team is starting to grasp some of the things that their coach is teaching. Borean knows that it is going to take a lot of time, energy and dedication to get the program back to what it once was, but with the new crop of wrestlers, life is back in the Bret Harte wrestling room and the future will be bright.

“I can teach moves,” Borean said. “The thing that I can’t teach is attitude and these kids have a phenomenal attitude. These kids make it a joy to be here. They have a great work ethic. I beat them up every day and they take it and love it. I can build a program off the attitudes of these guys.”

Contact Guy Dossi at 498-2053 and follow him on Twitter at @GuyDossi.

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Source : http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/sports/article_12e8701e-dada-11e7-9a84-4f82c52b5fda.html

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