Scott Weidemier knows wrestling can be a hard sell in Healdsburg these days. But he’s doing his best to bring the sport back to the prominent role it held not that long ago. Sharp-eyed sports fans know there’s more than one red-and-blue pennant at the gym that claims a league championship in wrestling.
This year, however, Weidemier’s team of 15 is so inexperienced that they compete at the JV level. Fifteen members is not a very large squad, and for most of them it’s their first year. “I think we might have, I don’t know, five years experience total with the group we have,” he said.
That five years of total experience is not of time spent in actual competition, which makes every match a learning experience, like the most recent match against Windsor last week.
“They’re the strongest team in the area, and we didn’t win a match, but it probably was the best overall effort we’ve had all year,” Weidemier said. “Just from the standpoint of being aggressive, trying things, not just walking out there and being intimidated. And you know, they got hammered, but they actually responded. So it was good to see.”
The team went back to Windsor two days later for a JV tournament, and this time they won a few medals—one fourth place, four thirds and a second, to freshman David Campbell (122 lbs).
Weidemier has hopes for a varsity team next year, and to slowly rebuild a once-strong tradition. He is not just a wrestling coach, but Healdsburg’s wrestling coach. He graduated from HHS in 1979 and went to SRJC, wrestling the whole way. He took over the Healdsburg wrestling program in 1983, and has trained countless league champions and medalists.
He is a true believer. “Wrestling is that perfect balance of athletic ability,” he said. “It requires strength, it requires speed, it requires balance and a sense of leverage. You might not start the sport having all those tools necessarily, but it will help develop them.”
He also calls wrestling a perfect training vehicle for other sports, especially football. “Randy Parmeter has been super supportive and helpful with getting his kids to come out and do it,” Weidemier said of the current varsity football coach. “He wants his kids wrestling.”
Fifteen student-athletes is not a huge program, but it’s a big improvement on the four students he coached last year. Part of the need to rebuild the wrestling program is due to Covid, but a lot of blame falls to declining school enrollment and the changing demographic of families living in Healdsburg.
“Twenty, 30, 40 years ago it was a much more rural farming community. And now with tourism and everything else, it’s just an entirely different demographic for sure,” he said. That means youngsters don’t grow up knowing about the sport, and are less willing to try it, he speculated.
It’s interesting that Healdsburg High’s current principal, Francisco Manriquez, served as wrestling coach at Cardinal Newman. Said Manriquez of the HHS wrestling coach, “He is very positive and he can make a comeback. We love having him and are happy to support him.”
Cardinal Newman was on the JV schedule earlier this month, and the Greyhounds got schooled, losing 61 points to 9—though they did manage to get two wins, from senior Maximiliano Suazo (150 lbs) and freshman Eli Zepeda (285 lbs).
And, as time goes on and the experience with competition grows, Weidemier becomes optimistic. “They’re starting to put it together, he said. “It’s just [that] those varsity matches are a little problematic.”
He added, “I’m just excited about this group of kids; it’s really kind of one of those rare groups. They all get along. They work hard. They’re still struggling just trying to put things together in the right way, but, you know, wrestling’s not a sport you can learn in a month and a half.”
The Healdsburg JV wrestling team can next be seen at the Frost Gym on the Healdsburg High in a dual meet with Maria Carrillo on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 6pm.