Life as a wrestler at The Classical Academy isn’t that simple.
In order to start practice, each member of the team has to help put down a mat on the floor of the school’s cafeteria and bring out other wrestling equipment. This process could take about 30 minutes — time that the wrestlers could use toward practice.
It’s a humbling experience. Unlike most programs, the Titans don’t have the luxury of their own wrestling room. They can’t simply change into their practice attire and grapple with each other without knowing that they can’t leave until mats are put away.
“It’s a little strange wrestling in the same room you ate in earlier, but I like it,” said Titans junior Nathan Johns, who placed second in last year’s Class 3A 182-pound state championship match. “It’s fun to be different.”
For the past 14 years, the wrestling program has operated without a wrestling room. This isn’t the situation for other sports like football, basketball, soccer and volleyball. Titans wrestling coach Sean Collins said that he’s been pushing administrators to get his wrestlers a place other than the cafeteria to practice.
He believes that it’ll come one day.
Before every practice, school janitors push all the rolling tables out of the way to make room for 10 mats. The wrestlers get out of class at 3:05 p.m., and they have about a half-hour to change and get everything set up. Instead of a two-hour practice like other programs, they have about 90 minutes.
The Titans know they’re not the only program in the Pikes Peak region without a wrestling room. It’s part of the sport, Collins says: “I feel like wrestling is a fringe, outlier sport. It’s not in the main view. It doesn’t get TV time. So we oftentimes are the sport that just has to manage. We get the extra space, we get the storage, the extra room.”
He says one advantage is that the space in the cafeteria is bigger than some wrestling rooms he’s seen.
Under Collins’ 10-year tenure, the Titans have produced 55 state qualifiers, 14 state placers, two state finalists and a 2014 state champion in Andrew Register.
This season, the Titans return state qualifiers Johns and 170-pound junior Liam Young.
With 17 wrestlers, the Titans are looking to make a strong team push in the state tournament along with individual aspirations. Other key wrestlers are juniors Brendan Johnston (106), Aidan Johnston (113), Simeon Chambers (132), Theo Bone (160), Jason Alexander (220) and senior Daniel Borchet (195).
And they believe they’ll get there one practice at a time inside the cafeteria.
“The reality is, every program is going to have challenges,” Collins said. “Whether you’re a big school or small school, everybody has certain things they have to overcome. We fully are aware we aren’t the only ones with a challenge. This just happens to be our challenge. We make the best out of it.”