The Salt River High School varsity wrestling team traveled to Glendale on December 10 and 11 to compete in the Cactus Wrestling Invitational. Eighteen schools participated in the invitational tournament, and SRHS was placed in Pool A alongside Mingus, Cactus, Ironwood, Millennium, Valley Christian, Sahuarita, Liberty, Notre Dame and Catalina Foothills high schools.
Earlier this season, SRHS Head Wrestling Coach Marc Hillis said his wrestlers needed confidence; after competing against great teams at the invitational, the team realized their potential and proved that their work ethic is just as strong.
“One of the reasons I push them so hard is that once they complete the season, they are more apt to believe they can do a variety of things,” Hillis said. “It’s not just about wrestling, but facing and overcoming other challenges in life. I believe that being a wrestler made me a better soldier, whether here or in Iraq, and a better student while I was not only [earning] my bachelor’s but my master’s [degree] as well.”
When competing against larger schools, the SRHS wrestlers go up against older and more experienced wrestlers at times, but that doesn’t prevent the Salt River wrestlers from leaving it all on the mat.
“These kids that wrestle for me are always unique. I want them to do their best, even if they lose. I’ve always told them that I would take four hard-working athletes any day over 10 half-hearted athletes,” Hillis said.
The Eagles went up against Sahuarita in their first match of the tournament. They also faced Liberty, Notre Dame, Mingus, Millennium, Catalina Foothills, Cactus and Ironwood.
In preparing his team for the tournament, Hillis said he made sure the wrestlers understood they were going up against kids just like them.
“My kids know they can compete with any wrestlers in the state, regardless of size or classification,” he said. “Even if they lose, they can still be competitive and go down fighting. Any victory or defeat is a learning experience. Still, we get a lot of stiff competition from small schools too.”
Mingus High School won the Cactus Invitational with 669.5 points, followed by Cienega and Ironwood. Salt River finished 18th, with 105 points.