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Evergreen wrestling coach Luke Burrier believes three words sum up the program: effort, attitude and aggression.
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The squad of 37 wrestlers look to each other for encouragement and rivalry, especially senior grapplers Gabe Zimmerer and Alejandro Luna. Both are having great seasons, and they help shepherd underclassmen through the experience of high school wrestling.
Luna, who wrestles in the 126-pound weight class, is 14-0 this season, while Zimmerer, who wrestles in at 165 pounds, is 13-1 this season and third in 4A as of Jan. 4. They agree that the team has grown into a strong family, and mental stamina is just as important as the physical demands of the sport.
Burrier is proud that the team raised funds to invest in its practice room, showing wrestlers that they and their sport matter. He attributes the team’s success to the assistant coaches, many of whom have college-level wrestling experience, who volunteer to help.
Luna, who began wrestling his freshman year, said his teammates are like his brothers and sisters. He likes the sibling rivalry, so when they wrestle each other during practice, they try to outdo each other.
“If forces you to grow,” he said. “We’re trying to become the best we can be. It’s fighting with friends, and it’s the best thing ever.”
Zimmerer and Luna always come to practice with a positive attitude because they want to be there, coach Luke Burrier said.
“They are great leaders and they set a great precedent for the rest of the team,” said Burrier, who has been the Evergreen head wrestling coach since 2015.
Luna said being on the wrestling team helps with other sports because it teaches grapplers about body placement and being light on their feet. Luna also plays rugby and is involved in martial arts.
Zimmerer, who also plays football, agreed.
While wrestling is a very physical sport, Luna said it was more a mental sport because the mind must overcome adversity and exhaustion.
“If you mentally grow, your body follows suit,” Luna explained.
On the walls of the wrestling team’s practice room is a slogan: “The only easy day was yesterday.”
“It means that it will always be harder, but that makes you better," Zimmerer said. "We are always trying to improve.”
The thing about wrestling that is different than many other sports is a grappler could be down many points in a match but ultimately win by pinning the opponent. That’s where the mental strength comes in.
“You can win matches you didn’t think you could,” Zimmerer said.
Zimmerer grew up wrestling because his dad was a coach.
“I always saw high schoolers doing hard work, so I was comfortable wrestling," he said. "It’s a hard sport. It’s physically and mentally grueling.”
Zimmerer noted that the wrestling team culture is a lot different than the culture in other high school sports.
“Most kids don’t know we have a wrestling team,” he said. “We work hard all the time, and it’s tough. When you experience something tough together, you form a bond.”
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