HomeSportsHard work, determination and enthusiasm serve as ingredients to wrestling success at CHS

Hard work, determination and enthusiasm serve as ingredients to wrestling success at CHS

Published March 5, 2024


Carmel High School’s wrestling program has just concluded this year’s winter season, seeing two students qualify for the Central Coast Section Regionals competition and one for the CCS Masters competition. 

Victories such as these in wrestling are hard-earned due to the intense nature of the sport.

“Wrestling’s hard, so not everybody can survive,” says Russel Shugars, the head coach of the wrestling team. “What’s unique about wrestling is that there are no divisions in wrestling, there’s no big-school or small-school divisions, so we have to compete against everybody. The Palmas, the Bellarmines, the Saint Francises, the big giant schools in San Jose–there’s only one champion in each weight. It makes the road a little tough.”

Wrestling requires many hours of conditioning and training beyond the team’s afterschool practices spent scrimmaging on mats in the CHS dance room, making it physically demanding and time consuming.

The sport also differs from many other CHS sports in that seniority does not merit a place on the varsity team, and varsity placement can change throughout the season.

With many freshmen and sophomores on the team, Shugars says the future is bright for wrestling at CHS. (photo by KERRY BELSER)

“Wrestling is one of the fairest things in the world,” says Shugars, who also coaches wrestling at Carmel Middle School and teaches physical education at Carmel River Elementary School. “Whoever is our best kid at that weight, that’s varsity.” 

Because of the physical challenges presented by the sport, the athletes admit that wrestling is not for everybody.

“A lot of people quit,” explains senior Chase Lander, who has been wrestling since the sixth grade. “There’s no cuts in wrestling. You cut yourself.”

Tournaments also challenge wrestlers due to their long hours, requiring the athletes to wake up early to travel to the venue and to stay there as long as they keep winning matches.  

“If you do well in the tournament, you’re there close to eight o’clock at night,” explains Lander. “It’s an endurance and mental task.”

During a wrestling tournament, each athlete participates in multiple matches against different people of the same weight class. Varsity is separated into 14 weight classes, which range from 106 pounds to 285 pounds. Each match is six minutes long and separated into two-minute periods. The goal of a match is to either pin your opponent or score as many takedown or near fall points as possible. 

“It’s very mentally challenging during the season because of all of our tournaments,” adds junior Zackery Lander, who has also participated in wrestling since the sixth grade. “We have to wake up at five a.m. every morning.”

What keeps the CHS wrestlers going through the difficult season and long tournaments is the enthusiasm and determination found in the team.

“I like that everybody that does it at Carmel really wants to wrestle,” says Lander. “It’s a small community, and the people there want to be there.”

Besides seniors Oliver Stephens and Chase Lander and junior Zackary Lander, CHS’ wrestling team is entirely composed of freshmen and sophomores. With the majority of the team having more years in the CHS wrestling program ahead of them, Shugars says the future is bright for Carmel wrestling.

Wrestlers, like senior Oliver Stephens, compete against each other to participate in postseason tournaments. (photo by KERRY BELSER)

“When more people show up, facing adversity with your teammates is easier,” says Zackary, who is excited about the team’s growing numbers.

As well as finding the enthusiasm and courage to tackle the difficult sport in team unity, CHS wrestlers are also individually extremely determined and hard working. 

Freshman Alexander Noto-Hagan, who has been wrestling since the seventh grade, explains that wrestling is about “the effort of pushing through and learning how to build strength.” 

Both Zackery Lander and Noto-Hagan qualified for CCS Regionals this season, which were held in Watsonville on the weekend of Feb. 10. Lander then went on to qualify for CCS Masters, the next round of the competition held again in Watsonville on the weekend of Feb. 17, where he was eliminated after losing 4-3 to a competitor from Fremont.

“It’s much harder than the local tournaments,” says Noto-Hagan, describing his experience during the CCS Regionals. “But it’s a fun challenge in my opinion, and it’s a great community because everyone is going through the same hardships.”

Team members, such as freshman Dominik Ranansky, often help Coach Shugars demonstrate skills during practice. (photo by KERRY BELSER)

Zackery Lander explains that he felt prepared for the first CCS competition because of his training throughout the season.

“We do lots of conditioning because even though the periods are only two minutes long, it’s pretty much a sprint for the six minutes that you are in a match,” says the multi-sport athlete, who also participates in cross country and track and field.

Wrestling has been present at CHS since the school was founded and has been an important part of the Carmel High experience for many athletes.

“What’s unique coaching this year for me is it’s the first time I’m getting kids on the team whose fathers wrestled for Carmel,” explains Shugars. 

Though the CHS wrestling team is currently all boys at the moment, the coach explains that they are open to any athletic girls who want to try the sport, since many of the schools they compete against have girls on their wrestling teams as well.


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