NEWPORT — It’s been an uphill battle for the Newport wrestling team and head coach Rick Hernandez since he’s led the program.
From the numbers in the program to the performances on the mat, Hernandez and the Cubs have seen an uptick in both over the past few years.
Their efforts over the years have paid dividends, including the Cubs going toe-to-toe with some of the best wrestling teams in the 4A-SD2, or Special District 2.
On Thursday, Feb. 7, Newport played host to the OWC Duals where Cascade, Newport, Philomath/Alsea, Siuslaw and Stayton all took part in a daylong wrestling event.
It was not only significant as a league meet, but because the meet signaled the impending date of districts.
“The atmosphere here today has been great, but we have a tough conference,” Hernandez said. “When you have Sweet Home, Cascade and Philomath in your gymnasium, you are going to battle against some of the top guys in our conference, district and state, so it’s tough.”
Despite the amount of talent in Newport’s gym on Thursday, the Cubs came out and put on a show in front of friends, family and students who came in as fans.
Newport’s state as a wrestling team is only improving as the years go by. Today, Hernandez is proud of where his wrestlers have come and only expects the team to continue to grow.
“We have a lot of growing to do. We have a lot of kids that are excited, but we have four seniors that are leaving,” Hernandez said. “They're either first-year or second-year seniors, but we are gaining more experience next year, so as much as we are losing, we are gaining a bunch of kids.
“We are taking our bumps and bruises right now, but I believe here in the near future Newport is going to start growing and we are going to get a lot better.”
And, like Hernandez said, it’s just a matter of time before the Cubs find their groove on the wrestling mat.
The Cubs junior high team just started last year, and the middle-school wrestlers will feed into the high school team, giving Newport and coach Hernandez more kids to work with, but more importantly, wrestling kids.
“We’ll get some of those kids every year which is going to grow our program obviously, so the way it looks, every year we are growing and next year we are looking to be double of what we are this year,” Hernandez said.
It’s been a process for the Cubs over the last few years, but the work put in on a daily basis by each athlete and coach for Newport is the reason why they are growing in numbers and talent.
There can be a lot of lessons learned having to battle and create something from scratch, but that only fuels the Cubs as they aren’t worried about anything, unless that is doing their best on the mat.
“We don’t have one guy or girl that doesn’t put in a bunch of work, the only negative and downside to this sport is that they are all young. They are either first-year or second-year wrestlers,” Hernandez said. “So, when you are going up against some of these teams that have wrestlers who have been doing it for years and years, it makes it tough for them.”
But that only breeds success as they continue to step back in and wrestle the next boy or girl in front of them.
“They are not afraid to battle it out in the center of that ring. It’s a tough deal to take a loss, but what’s tougher is getting up and getting back in. Everyone comes back and they fight hard regardless of the outcome of the match,” Hernandez said.