By Ray Hamill — Former Hoopa High Warrior Merk Robbins is heading back to the program he helped lead to a league title a decade ago.
Robbins was recently named the Warriors new wrestling head coach, taking over from long-time coach Mike Lee, who retired from the program at the end of last season after two decades in charge.
“I’m excited about coaching the team,” Robbins said, adding that “I hope we have a season this year.”
The former Hoopa High standout brings plenty of wrestling experience to the position.
In his four years with the team, Robbins won four individual league titles, as well as helping the Warriors to a team championship in his junior year.
He also wrestled one year at Santa Rosa JC, where he was crowned NorCal champion at 133 pounds.
He takes over a program with a strong tradition in the sport, and a program that has produced some outstanding competitors in recent years, including pro MMA fighters Orion and Louis Cosce.
And Robbins isn’t shying away from the challenge.
“I want to coach this team to be H-DN champions, like my team was,” he said. “We did pretty well that year. We had eight or nine kids in the (H-DNL) finals.”
Lee’s shoes won’t be easy to fill, but the legendary Hoopa coach played a big role in helping shape his successor.
“He was my coach all four years at Hoopa, and he gave me a good foundation in wrestling,” Robbins said.
“Wrestling is about a lot more than just learning wrestling moves,” the new coach added. “I want to start with the fundamentals and teach them about the importance of hard work and strength of mind.”
Hoopa High Athletics Director Augie Valdez was impressed with Robbins during the interview process.
“He’s really excited to get back on the mat and getting the kids excited about wrestling,” Valdez said. “He’s really passionate about it.”
Robbins is one of multiple coaching hires at the school this year, including new football head coach Floyd Billings.
“Cowboy (Billings) and Merk both lived in Hoopa and they know better than anyone what these kids go through,” Valdez said. “Any time you can get good role models to work with the kids it’s awesome.”
Robbins is optimistic there will be a season this year, as the local counties move through the state tier system, which allows for certain sports to compete in various tiers.
“I think we will right now,” he said. “Because it’s one of the later sports and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
According to the most recent state guidelines for youth sports, wrestling will be allowed when we reach the yellow or least restricted tier.