By Ray Hamill — When it comes to the sport of wrestling, there is one simple truth above all others.
“The more time you spend on the mat, the better you’ll be,” Arcata head coach Eric Mikolai said.
It’s something some of the Arcata wrestlers have taken to heart, and something that’s beginning to pay dividends this season.
The Tigers, who opened the Humboldt-Del Norte League schedule in a dual meet at Eureka High on Wednesday night, are off to an impressive start this season, both the girls and boys.
The boys team has taken a pair of third-place finishes, at last month’s McKinleyville tournament and last weekend’s Middletown tournament, while a roster of five girls is building momentum.
Moore gaining attention
Most notably senior Maeve Moore, a third-year wrestler, is fast gaining attention.
Moore took first at Middletown at 137 pounds, and was named one of the tournament Most Outstanding Wrestlers, the only unanimous choice among the coaches voting.
It was her second Most Outstanding Wrestler award this season, having previously also taken the honor at Grants Pass.
Not bad for a third-year wrestler, who started out as the team manager when she was a freshman, before taking to the mats and following in the footsteps of her older brother Ben.
Moore has already signed on to wrestle at the collegiate level next year at Southern Oregon, and, according to her coach, her success has been largely founded on that one simple truth.
“What has made her go from not knowing anything about wrestling to being good at it is the work she puts in in the offseason,” Mikolai said. “She goes to camps, and she helps out with the youth programs, and she’s always working in the offseason.”
Moore’s not the only Tiger to benefit from that sort of work ethic.
At 126 pounds, Logan Kopenhaver has also been making some noise on the mats this season and poised to lead his team’s charge in league.
“He’s been kind of like our breakout star this year,” Mikolai said of the senior. “And he also puts in time in the offseason to get better.”
Kopenhaver had an impressive weekend at Middletown, taking first in his weight class while pinning all eight of his opponents.
Senior Justice Spaulding is also expected to lead the way for the Tigers this season.
“He’s been up at 170 and 180 and now he’s starting to make the drop down to 160 for the postseason,” Mikolai said of the four-year wrestler, who has been one of the team’s most consistent grapplers. “He’s been wrestling for four years and he’s done a good job for us. He’s someone I can count on for a win.”
One of things that has most impressed the coach this season is the camaraderie he’s seen from his roster on their travels together.
“I just really like the group dynamic,” Mikolai said. “When we go somewhere everybody’s having fun together, and everybody’s really cohesive. They like to work hard together, and they’re buying into the program together.
“It’s like a wrestling family, and that’s what I’m hearing from all the parents.”
Like many of the local teams, the Tigers will be on hand at Eureka’s North Coast Classic on Jan. 19, with tournaments for both the boys and girls.