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The Maverick core of star wrestlers sweated out a two-week wrestling camp to improve

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Mountainside standout wrestler Samuel Balderston and the Mavericks have split the Metro League title this year.

The JROB Intensive Wrestling Camp is no joke.

Its missive, according to the camp's website, operates on the principle that intense challenges bring about life-changing growth. By focusing on physical preparation, technical skill, mental toughness, and life skills, JROB is the spark that ignites a personal and athletic transformation for each wrestler. The work ethic, discipline, and mindset of achievement taught at camp become a part of their core, propelling them toward immediate and long-term success on the mat and in life.

The hype videos depict a camp dedicated to making talents into champions by putting them through the absolute wringer from 6:30 in the morning to 10:30 p.m. Some grapplers go for 28 days, others 14, some 10.

This past June, Mountainside's Nicholas Calhoun, Jontae Allen, Marlon Barrios and Ramtin Yazdani all signed up for JROB at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. Accomplished as is and dedicated to the craft, the Maverick nucleus enlisted for the two-week session in late July, right before the start of football. These guys didn't need to be coached hard. They're self-starters who are highly motivated. But this was a whole different level of intrinsic intensity.

"We thought we knew what we were getting into," Calhoun said with a laugh. "It was…an experience. We took away a lot of things and it shows."

"We were blown away," Allen said.

Thirty minutes into the first session of camp, Barrios had to drop down and give his instructor 40 pushups for picking up a water bottle for a swig when he wasn't allowed to. On the last day of camp, the entire crew had to run a half marathon in the sweltering summer heat. The daily schedule at JROB Intensive Camps varies from day to day in order to maximize the physical and mental challenges that its athletes face. It uses unpredictability and constant change as a tool to test the athletes, so they never know what they'll face when they wake up. The day began with an hour-workout, followed by breakfast and recovery. Then there were technique sessions in the morning, followed by hard practice, drilling and live wrestling in the afternoon. The evening consisted of sort of skull sessions, followed by more running, cross-training and weightlifting. Athletes at JROB Intensive Camps are challenged to fight through and overcome physical and mental fatigue under stressful conditions, a skill that is directly transferable to success during the season. The training and conduct expectations at camp are inspired by camp founder J Robinson's experience as an Army Ranger and by the protocol of Army Ranger School, which focuses on both physical and mental development. This went on for two weeks straight, testing the competitive fiber of each of the Maverick contenders.

"It was mostly mental toughness that we took away," Calhoun said. "It wasn't necessarily the technique; it was all the running and hard drills."

The payoff for all that time spent, however, is tenfold this season for that foursome and the Maverick program as a whole.

Mountainside has quickly morphed into a Metro League district power, knocking off defending Westview in dual meet action to clinch a share of the regular season title. The Mavericks lost just one dual meet all season, a narrow 36-21 decision to Aloha at home. They won the Tim Patrick Invitational, took second at the MHS Your Space Storage Invite and figure to be one of the Metro district tournament favorites come mid-February.

"It's fun to not get blown out anymore," Allen said with a smile. "The tables are turning. Things are changing."

"Now we have the skills to pay the bills," Calhoun said. "We're out there getting stuff done. We're the ones doing the pushing. Once we take districts, we'll get it going."

At the forefront of it all is this foursome of stars in Calhoun, Allen, Barrios and Yazdani, grapplers who sweated, suffered, survived and ultimately thrived during those grueling two weeks living and breathing a sport they're now intimately familiar with. After such a jarring experience of being immersed in wrestling with no reprieve, it's no surprise that those standouts are head and shoulders better than they were a year ago.

Calhoun and Allen heaped all kinds of praise on head coach Brett Phillips and his experienced staff of assistants from Michael Matthews and Jason Appleton and beyond.

"When I feel like I'm underwater because I'm getting the snot beat out of me, (Appleton) is that voice of reason yelling at me, telling me to make the right moves," Allen said with a laugh. "He helps me push me out of the darkness. We are so lucky to have the coaching staff we have. They do everything. It wasn't for them we wouldn't get as far as we have."

In a marathon meet, with nine matches that went the distance, the Warriors out willed the Mavericks, winning four of the night's final matches to take it 36-21 on Jan. 23 at Mountainside High School. Stamina helped beat Mountainside, as Aloha won six of the nine matches that went the full six minutes. But the Mavericks, who are still in their relative infancy as a program, put up one hell of a fight. Allen and Calhoun won by decision. Barrios and Yazdani barely lost in the third period to state qualifiers Kieran McCalpin and Drew Fritz. These four Mavericks will most certainly be in contention for district titles as individuals. And if they can continue to improve over the next two weeks, Mountainside just might be in the mix for a district tournament title belt along with its share of the Metro regular season crown.

"I saw a lot of relentlessness because our guys didn't get pinned," Allen said. "Even though we came up short, there are just a couple of things we need to work on, endurance being one. Once we get that, we'll be winning those close matches."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Mountainside standout wrestler Arian Tajgerdu and the Mavericks have split the Metro League title this year.

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