Early next year, they’ll engage in a fierce rivalry. But these days, Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy’s wrestling teams are pals.
Over the summer, the two teams have combined to form the Carmel Valley Rebels Wrestling Club (CVRWC), a startup that just launched in June. The club is the brainchild of Martin Brown and Connor Nesseler, the varsity head wrestling coaches at Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy.
The club aims to support the two upstart programs, capitalizing on the buzz the sport typically creates during an Olympic year.
“We’re both competitors,” Brown said. “We both want to win league next year, there’s nothing hidden about that, but we’re friends, and what comes first is supporting each other and trying to get our kids to the next level and I think that translates down to our wrestlers.”
So far the club has translated into greater interest in the sport during what typically has been a down period of the calendar year for the two upstart programs. The club has had about 30 participants at one point since launching in June, at the Torrey Pines gym. The club is is expected to move its mats to CCA next month.
The programs hope to build on their success from last season. The Ravens had four wrestlers qualify for the Master’s tournament (a qualifying event for the state meet), and Torrey Pines two.
The Ravens top wrestlers include twin brothers Greyson and Kenton Olep (both incoming seniors). Sophomore Peter “Pierre” Thomas is among the Falcons top returnees.
The club is open to all area wrestlers from high school all the way down to third grade.
The rival coaches came up with the idea for the camp after last season and moved forward after getting the blessings of administrators at both schools.
Brown said it’s important to have a wrestling program in Carmel Valley that allows wrestlers to have a home to wrestle in year round.
“I don’t think the guys realize it, but the work they’ve put in the last six weeks and even the three months before with coach Connor with CCA, they’re really building,” Brown said. “They’re really starting to hone in on their skills and they’re conditioning. I think they’re going to be really surprised in the fall with the guys that we have here.”
The club has already been represented at the Poway High Summer Slam, one of the area’s most prestigious summer tournaments. The CVRWC will also compete at the Aug. 13-14 Battle on the Midway tournament, which will be held on the flight deck of the U.S. Midway.
“I feel that getting the club started and having the kids that we have, we’re solidifying ourselves in the county as an area where successful wrestlers are going to start coming out of,” Brown said. “I feel that just having this and having a place where kids can go to wrestle and to continue to further themselves and gain knowledge of the sport is really going to pay dividends in the fall.”
Brown hopes to get more middle schools kids involved in a sport that he believes teaches athletes important life lessons.
“It’s such a great character-builder, it builds confidence and character,” he said, noting that at some point all boys want to wrestle, even if it’s just grappling around with their brothers and rolling around.
“It’s a sport that’s been around for centuries,” Brown said. “Wherever you go, there’s going to be some variation of wrestling. It’s just one of those things that I think is innate, and when young men do it I think they go through a transformation of getting that confidence, knowing that they can stand up for themselves and hold their ground, but it’s not an easy sport.”
It is rewarding though.
“When you do it and you love it, it’s something that you just don’t walk away from,” Brown said. “There’s something special about it, you’ll see it this summer with the Olympics.”
Wrestling has enjoyed greater popularity during Olympic years. This year the sport has already gotten national coverage, with ESPN broadcasting the Olympic trials.
“People start realizing and respecting how cool the sport is” during Olympic years, Brown said.
It’s cool enough to get two rival coaches to work together on a program to help further the sport, which Brown acknowledges sends a message to wrestlers in both programs.
“Here’s the deal, if they can work together there’s no reason we can’t work together to get better,” Brown said. “There’s a time and a place to try to rip each other’s heads off and it’s not now. We’re not here to hurt each other, we’re here to get better working all summer.”