Sports & Recreation

Monty Benally, Hosteen Begay-Smith, Taneasha Thomas, Aaron Rivers and Blaine Hillis are the five participants on the Salt River High School varsity wrestling team.

Salt River Junior High and High School Wrestlers Building a Program

By Jennifer Hernandez
Au-Authm Action News

Since the beginning of his career as a wrestling coach with the Salt River Junior High and High School wrestling teams, head coach Marc Hillis has been there almost every step of the way.

This season the high school wrestling team has five varsity wrestlers, which is more than in previous years when Hillis said their season ended with three or four varsity wrestlers and 10 junior high wrestlers. He said it is typical for the same wrestlers to return to the team the following year, but this season he has one new high school wrestler and six new junior high participants.

Hillis said he believes the number of participants is low in wrestling because many of the students are not familiar with the sport. He also admitted two interested wrestlers decided not to come out for the team, because the rules require them to compete in a singlet (a one-piece uniform, usually made of spandex) during matches.

“I was able to encourage more athletes to come out after coaching football, and I am glad some of them decided to come out,” Hillis said.

Hillis’ wrestling background comes from having competed on his high school wrestling team. He said he tries to work his high school wrestlers really hard, with a rigorous running schedule and a lot of stretching and technique work. But with the junior high kids, he presses hard only in the area of fundamentals.
Two ninth-graders on the varsity team, Blaine Hillis and Aaron Rivers, were prepared as they began this season after having wrestled with the training program in previous years. Hillis said the guys knew what to expect and have been right on track. Because there is only a varsity program at Salt River High School, the freshmen have their hands full.

“I think the guys are doing well,” Hillis said.

The team just returned from the JV Jamboree (unofficial match) at Perry High School; Hillis and Rivers came back with second-place medals. Rivers has been wrestling since seventh grade, and now he really looks forward to it.
“When I first started, it was really hard and I would lose my breath really fast,” he said. “But now I run a lot before we start, and it is a little easier.”

Although he likes competing against new opponents, sometimes he does get nervous, but he said he has a lot of confidence and is learning something new every day.

“The best part about being a part of this team is representing my Community,” Rivers said. He medaled at one meet last season.

Blaine Hillis has been wrestling on and off since he was in third grade. He said the most difficult part is the preparation heading into matches. “I get really nervous waiting for my match,” he said.

Sometimes he is able to help the other wrestlers on his team, and he said he is still learning and picking up new techniques himself. He said the best part about being on the team is “traveling and hanging out with his teammates.” Last year he medaled four times.


SRHS Varsity Wrestling Team
Hosteen Begay-Smith
Monty Benally
Blaine Hillis
Aaron Rivers
Taneasha Thomas

Salt River Junior High Wrestling Team
Danny Apodaca
Lavell Benally
Michael Collins
Aukmor Creech
Josh Lewis
Denton Miguel
Ernie Pedro
Sydaniel Sampson
Keith Taylor
Joe Young

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