By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
For a number of years, the Del Norte Youth Wrestling team has developed exceptional grapplers with a number of them now on the Del Norte High Wrestling team, including sophomore Roger McCovey who recently went to state.
This year is no exception, with the youth squad winning first overall at several tournaments and earning many individual first place finishes, including seven at a recent tournament in Fortuna.
Today, the team brings its exceptional track record to the mat, as the squad competes at a home tournament at Del Norte High School, starting at 10 a.m. at both gyms.
With the youngest member of the team only 5-years-old, coach Roger Boulby is already working on passing his knowledge to the next generation of wrestlers in Del Norte County.
Even if a child does not eventually wrestle in high school, Boulby said the sport teaches them from an early age the rewards of hard work and being active, and instills in them positive work habits.
"I think it teaches kids discipline," Boulby said. "It builds self-confidence. When they start winning matches, they start to feel good about themselves."
This is the second year Eloy Thomas-Mata, 12, has been a member of the wrestling team.
The first year was a struggle, he admitted, with Eloy losing several matches and not putting in the effort needed to do well, and not paying heed to direction from the coaching staff.
Earlier this year, Boulby sat down with Eloy and asked him if he really wanted to be on he team. Boulby asked him if he was willing to put in the effort needed to succeed in the sport.
The talk was a wake-up call. Eloy is currently undefeated in league matches and recently garnered first in his division at the Fortuna tournament.
"It just clicked for him," Boulby said. "He's practicing hard and has become a leader. He's dedicated."
Eloy said while wrestling was difficult at first, practicing hard and finding that desire to give 100 percent has opened his eyes to the joys of the sport.
"I want to get better," he said. "I like the feeling of winning. I know I've been practicing hard and getting better and stronger."
Boulby said he has been involved in wrestling for a long time and enjoys teaching the sport to the youth of the community. His sons Ta-Tes, 7, and Robert 12, are on the team, and he is the father of Roger McCovey.
Currently, four team members are undefeated in league matches.
One of them is Nicole Mattz, 9, the only girl currently on the team.
At a recent practice, Mattz more than held her own against the boys, showing a great tenacity and willingness to go toe-to-toe with her competition.
"She's tough," Boulby said. "She beats a lot of the boys."
"It's fun," said Nicole, who has been wrestling for about four years. "I like to beat the boys. There's hardly any girls to wrestle, so I have to wrestle all the boys."
Boulby said it will be nice to host a tournament and said he's looking forward to the competition and having the kids wrestle in Crescent City. He predicts team members will come out ready to defend their home turf today.
"We don't want to lose in our house," he said.