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Beauty in the rebuild for Denair wrestling program
Denair wrestling
Only seven student-athletes are on this year’s Denair High wrestling roster, but early results from the underclassmen have the Coyotes optimistic for brighter days ahead (Photo courtesy of Denair Athletics).

Last season was one to remember for the Denair High wrestling team. Despite having a small roster, four wrestlers competed in the Sac-Joaquin Section divisional tournament. But this year, not a single one of those student-athletes are returning.

“It's Denair. It's a small school. I got really fortunate that I got a good group of kids in there that stuck with it. I call them the core four because there was four that came out with me that first year and they stuck it out for three years,” said head coach Bryan Herrington, who enters his fourth season leading the Coyotes.

The core four were Logan Prescott (132), J.J. Ruelas (113), Conner Prock (152) and Zack Duffy (205-263). Duffy finished his year as a Southern League champion while Prock nearly made it to the Master’s tournament.

Denair Coyotes

Coach: Bryan Herrington, fourth season

Key losses: Logan Prescott (132), J.J. Ruelas (113), Conner Prock (152), Zack Duffy (205-263)

Key returners: Chris Vilichis

“But I have no returners this year. Literally everybody's gone. We had some guys some guys who weren’t seniors yet, but they decided wrestling wasn’t for them,” Herrington said. “If there's ever the right time to use the term ‘rebuilding,’ it would be this year.”

Herrington hopes to rebuild his roster of seven wrestlers into similarly dominant athletes. It will come with difficulties as each of the seven are underclassmen. Despite the inexperience, though, Herrington believes he has something to work with.

“I mean, every single kid that walked into that room had little to no experience to the point to where we’re having to explain the scoring the rules, how to get into a stance. The plus side is there's no bad habits and I'm not having to correct anything. I'm just having to teach them how to do it, right,” he said.

There is also optimism amongst the program after seeing the recent performances of Chris Vilichis. Although he had never wrestled in his life, he took home third place in the Atwater Bristow Brawl novice tournament.

“He won in his first match ever, granted, it's against a kid with similar experience, but he turned and looked at the crowd and he threw his hands up like he just won a state championship,” Herrington said. “He was just so excited, and the best part was his teammates were standing on the balcony all excited for him. Seeing that kind of gives me something to be excited about.”

This season, the Coyotes will continue to compete in novice tournaments only instead of the traditional varsity events until Southern League competition starts.

“My only hope for Denair is if I can get seven wrestlers this year, and seven next year and seven the year after that, then we can start being more competitive,” Herrington said. “It's just hard. Getting kids to commit these days. Wrestling is a tough sport, and when you get in there, you can find a million excuses not to show back up. But I know I'm not the only one with this problem. I know every wrestling coach has the same issue.”