Lane Williams learned how to come out of nowhere and ruin a wrestler’s senior season. Now he wants to teach the Evergreen Cougars that mentality.
Williams is the new wrestling coach at Evergreen, taking over for Steve Hitchens via stops at Hinkley High School in Aurora, Holyoke, and a collegiate career at Portland State.
“I see a lot of potential,” Williams said of the Cougars after practice. “After watching these kids for the last couple weeks, I see a lot of potential, but them just missing the belief in themselves that they can do this.”
If so, then Williams might be the perfect coach to fix that.
The biggest notch in his belt was denying a third national title to then-Southern Colorado senior Mark Villalobos. Williams recalled he entered the 1992 tournament with a ho-hum 4-6 record but defeated the highly touted Villalobos, who was featured on the cover of Wrestling USA magazine in 1991, in the 134-pound semifinals.
“I foiled his senior year,” Williams said.
Williams doesn’t tell that story to brag, but to inspire. He preaches tenacity, belief in self and an aggressive approach to his beloved sport. And those are the ingredients that allowed him to become the perfect underdog spoiler.
After high school outside of Portland, Ore., Williams concluded his career at Portland State and moved to Holyoke with his wife. He went for the change of pace, but the first thing he did was see if he could help out in the Dragons’ wrestling room.
“The love of the sport, I got to say,” Williams said of the magnetism of the mat. “My wife fought with me for years about wrestling. Now she just says, ‘Go and get your coaching job.’”
Williams, who was the assistant for two years at Hinkley and now lives in Pine Junction, got his coaching job by sharing his vision with Evergreen athletic director Tony Barnett of a program that would begin with strong youth wrestling teams eventually feeding the high school.
The core of the Cougars this season should come from experience at the upper weights in Wes Knoll, Nick Keitland and Rory Finnegan, in addition to younger kids at the lower weights such as Connor O’Neill and Daniel Downs.
What can people expect of the Cougars this season? Williams wants his wrestlers to be on their feet, breaking their opponents and going after them for takedowns.
“Aggressive. I told my kids the first day, ‘If they can’t take us down and hold us down, they’re not going to beat us,’” Williams said.
The shadow cast by rival Conifer, which is blessed with young standouts, is already looming at Evergreen. Williams, who said two seniors dropped off the team for unrelated reasons, believes the talented Lobos already intimidate some of his grapplers.
And that is a belief Williams aims to change.
“A lot of them got stout mechanics, they just need to have the belief in themselves,” he said.
Evergreen’s first dual is Dec. 6 against Wheat Ridge. The Cougars first tournament is Dec. 8 at Fairview in Boulder. The Cougars will continue to host their annual tournament in January.