Truckee wrestling: Once-proud program revived
The Wolverines are scheduled to compete in the Sierra Nevada Classic at the Reno Livestock Events Center on Dec. 29-30 and will host a tournament against Dayton and Fernley on Jan. 20 at 5 p.m.
Truckee’s wrestling program experienced its share of success during Ron Curtis’ 34-year reign as head coach — three league titles, five individual state champions, 20 state runner-up finishers and 64 state medal winners, to be exact.
Safe to say, the program has not been the same since Curtis retired in 2013. The Wolverines had one wrestler the following season and two last year, which, due to an injury and ineligibility, dwindled to zero by season’s end.
“So they kind of folded the program after that, and in April I applied for the job to get it restarted,” said first-year coach Jim Bennett, a social science teacher at Truckee and head JV football coach. “We’re gaining a little steam now. The kids are inexperienced, but give them two years.”
Working from scratch, Bennett recruited a dozen wrestlers to fill out the roster. That number has since increased to 17, which Bennett hopes to expand in the coming years.
“The (Alder Creek) middle school program has been very strong, but for whatever reason, a lot of kids didn’t carry on in high school,” said Bennett, a former wrestling coach at Mt. Whitney High in Visalia, Calif. “Being a teacher on campus and football coach, I’ve had daily contact with these kids, and I think that’s probably the biggest thing — just seeing them in the hallways and encouraging them to come out.”
Truckee’s team is young, with three freshmen, nine sophomores, three juniors and two seniors. Only one, sophomore Reed Belardi, has high school wrestling experience, and that came as a freshman at a different school.
Although the Wolverines have not voted on team captains, Bennett said sophomores Dominic Acevedo and Trevor Schroeder — both football players — have assumed leadership roles, mostly by example. Other football players on the team include seniors Britton Brophy and Jordan Jepsen, as well as junior Tony Felix.
Due to the Wolverines’ youth and inexperience, Bennett scheduled mostly JV tournaments leading up to the Northern Division I-A duals on Feb. 6. The Wolverines hosted a tournament with South Tahoe and Sparks last week and competed in a dual at South Tahoe on Wednesday. While Truckee lost that dual, 49-18, Bennett said the team is getting better all the time.
“Probably the best compliment we’ve had was last night when we wrestled South Tahoe. Their coach commended all the kids and said he saw a noticeable improvement in just one week,” said Bennett, who confirmed his commitment by starting a junior “intro to wrestling” program with the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District.
Bennett said the junior program, which began Dec. 1 and takes place every Tuesday and Thursday night, has attracted about a dozen kids under the age of 10.
“Getting the kids excited about it and starting them at that age is going to be the building blocks for us,” he said. “It’s the same with any sport.”
Truckee’s roster and schedule are available on high school sports website Maxpreps.com — with the exception of a home meet against Dayton and Fernley on Jan. 20, which Bennett just confirmed on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a bright future,” the coach said, “and we’re just getting started.”
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.