By Tim Lima
---- — $ID/[None]0000LightBlueBYFIELD — The Triton wrestling team continues to perform at a record-setting level three years after they won a Division 3 state championship.
Already this season, Triton had three wrestlers place in the Lowell Holiday Tournament — a school record — before finishing in first place at the Brookline Warrior Duals Tournament for the first time in program history.
The Vikings now sit at 12-4, a record that few would have imagined after a 2-2 start.
“We started out this year very inexperienced,” Triton coach Shawn McElligott said.
“I’d like to say I expected that we would be 12-4 at this point, but when we started I wasn’t too sure.”
Numbers are down this season for Triton’s wrestling program. Normally a team of 30 to 40 kids, the Vikings have just under 20. While a difficult feat to overcome for most programs, Triton has used it to its advantage. With a smaller team comes a tighter bond among teammates, something McElligott noticed and enjoyed from the get-go.
“These are nice kids that want to work hard and be a team,” he said.
“They don’t want to be individuals, and there are no big egos on our team. Early on in the season, I told the kids that I liked how they genuinely care about each other.”
In wrestling especially, the desire to get better is correlative to team improvement.
Each wrestler competes on an individual basis, but has an obligation to improve to help the team collectively. Where a basketball team may flourish with one star player, wrestling teams can only succeed with strong contributions from each member.
“One of the things you get from wrestling is learning a lot about yourself and self-discipline,” McElligott said. “You can’t point the finger at anyone else. You can’t say someone threw a bad pass or missed a block, because it’s all about you. If you lose, it’s nobody’s fault but your own. You learn to deal with it by realizing what happened and moving on. It’s up to you to do the work. You have to make yourself better and by doing so, you help the team out.”
McElligott’s Vikings have had a plethora of contributing parts this season, creating one very tough-to-beat sum.
Those established within the Triton program continue to get better and leave their lasting mark on the team, while newcomers are making themselves known.
Because of this, the Vikings have experienced record-setting performances in some of the year’s larger events, including this past weekend’s first-place finish at the Brookline High School Warrior Duals Tournament.
“You could see a different level in them,” McElligott said.
“They went for the takedown a little harder and didn’t make too many mistakes. They were really efficient and didn’t let up when they got their opponents on their back. They were a little louder on the bench and were more focused on what they had to do. We have been moving people around and kids have been willing to move around in weight classes to help the team.”
Moving guys around for the betterment of the team is something that is a strength of McElligott’s.
Combining a coach who knows who to move with kids who are willing to move is a recipe for success.
“(McElligott) has his paperwork straight,” senior captain Cody Nixon said. “He researches teams. He gets our lineup, even with the holes, to where we can win meets. Going in he knows where we are going to lose matches or where we need pins. He’s a mastermind in the sport of wrestling.”
Despite the successes that this season has brought for Triton, the team remains focused on improving the resume.
“We just have to be the best we can be,” Nixon said.
“We have to go on the mat and leave it all out there. As a captain, I want every individual on our team to go out and wrestle as hard as they possibly can for six minutes.”