Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Two HDN champions, one state qualifier among tight-knit Warriors

Senior leadership did not exist on the 2012andndash;13 Del Norte High wrestling team for one simple reason - by the time Humboldt-Del Norte League competition came around, the team had no seniors.

The Warriors began the season with around 25 wrestlers - depending, as ever, on the day - and ended it with 11 wrestlers. Seven juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen became the core of a team that finished in third place at the Humboldt-Del Norte Wrestling Championships and scored 22 points at the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section Wrestling Championships on Feb. 22andndash;23.

"It has been a very long season," Warriors assistant coach Clint Schaad said. "Small numbers, people washing out, injuries, sickness. It comes with the territory."

Del Norte enjoyed success in its six dual meets against league competition, going 4-2, but the Warriors often forfeited as many as five weight classes depending on the makeup of the team at the time.

"It just depends on who's on what weight that day - that's our lineup," Del Norte junior Robert Boulby said.

What the Warriors lacked in seniority, they made up for in experience.

Juniors Boulby, Hawk Mattz, Jackson Evans and Eric Turner had begun wrestling in the youth ranks and had approximately 50 years of experience in the sport between the four of them. Boulby and Mattz won HDN individual championships at 145 pounds and 152 pounds, respectively, this season, the second consecutive league title for both of them.

Sophomore Nicole Mattz, who finished third at the NCS Girls Wrestling Championships at 108 pounds, has also been wrestling for more than a decade. Mattz qualified for the CIF State Girls Wrestling Tournament but lost her only contested match.

"They're our senior leadership," junior 195-pounder David Plechaty said.

Justin Schrader, a freshman in the 113-pound weight class, joined the Del Norte team without having any prior experience in the sport. His teammates helped expedite his learning curve. Schrader eventually finished in fourth place at the HDN league meet Feb. 16.

"They encourage me a lot," Schrader said of his teammates. "They're teaching me a lot of things. I'm really glad it's just me and (fellow freshman Wyatt Duncan). If there was a lot of people, they wouldn't be able to teach us a lot of things."

Schaad and his brother, head coach Aaron Schaad, were impressed at the camaraderie the team displayed throughout an occasionally trying season.

"Like any team, you've got to have individuals that naturally fall in leadership roles," Clint Schaad said. "Those kids emerged on their own."

In taking stock of the program, Schaad mentioned changes to the Del Norte schedule he'd like to see enacted for the 2013andndash;14 season.

"Our plan is to add some bigger (two-day) tournaments to our list and get rid of the small one-day tournaments," he said. "It takes more time for both them and the coaches, but it's good for the kids. We go to tournaments that are tough and competitive, but we found out that once you get in the consolation bracket, the competition died down a little bit."

Greater numbers would also help. What matters to the Schaad brothers is that the Warriors derive value from the work they put into wrestling.

"The kids willing to do what it takes to stay on the team - grades, work ethic - they'll see the wins come," Clint Schaad said.

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