The Wolverine wrestling team has no room for bickering between teammates. If there is a problem, it can be settled on the mat, but the disagreement ends there.
That’s probably a good thing considering the Wolverines only have five wrestlers this year.
A combination of losing wrestlers to graduation, other sports and other schools, the stripped Wolverines have no choice but to turn to each other for strength.
“We’re extremely tight-knight, and we have to be,” Russell Davis ’17 said. “We understand each other.”
This year will be the first for head coach Patrick Cartmill. Coaching has always been a part of life for Cartmill, whose father coached football in Oklahoma. Cartmill coached both wrestling and football in Oklahoma City before moving to Los Angeles earlier this year. Cartmill also serves as a linebacker and running back coach for the Wolverines football team.
For players, the biggest difference between Cartmill and former coach Gary Bairos has been practices.
“Practices are a lot more structured,” Davis said. “I think it’ll be good to have a structure that’s the same every day and just follow the repetition.”
Ryan Ruiz ’16 will lead the team this year. Last year, Ruiz finished second in the Mission League in the 126-pound weight class and qualified for CIF Championships. Ruiz is the team’s only senior.
The traditionally male squad will also feature a rare sight for a high school wrestling team: a female wrestler. Angelica Estrada ’17 will wrestle for the first time since she was in eighth grade, following in the footsteps of Lena Kadogawa ’18 and Abbie Howell ’18, who wrestled last year but will not continue this year.
Given the team’s low numbers, it will be near impossible to win duals, wrestling’s equivalent of a track meet. In a dual, two schools face off in a series of matches at different weight classes. Whichever team has the most points at the end of all the matches wins. With so few men, the Wolverines won’t be able to provide a man for each weight class and will have to forfeit.
The Wolverines can’t control how many wrestlers they have, so they don’t worry about it, Davis said. They do worry about what they can control, however, and that means winning individual matches.
“Our goal is to win as many matches as we can,” Davis says. “We probably won’t win any duels, but we can still win every single match we have and hopefully make it through CIF.”
Even if they fall short, it won’t be for a lack of chemistry. There’s no room for that on a team of five.