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Indians took on an incredibly tough slate last month, ready to ramp up in January

PMG FILE PHOTO - Scappoose 285-pound wrestler Cutter Sandstrom has started this season on fire for the Indians.

There is a distinct, delicate balance between working too hard and not putting in enough time on the wrestling mat to see maximum success.

Burnout from overexertion over a long period might be as prevalent in the sport as drifting off during the holiday season due to inactivity. The wrestling season can admittedly be a slog but striking the right equilibrium between relaxation and taking on a heavy workload can mean the difference between a team finishing in top-10 or the top-five at the Class 5A state championship tournament.

Scappoose is fully cognizant of this notion. So, instead of slamming their program with more matches and practice sessions, the Indian coaching staff let off the gas. This week, Scappoose doesn't have a tournament to attend or dual meet to prepare for. The grapplers were encouraged to briefly step away from the sport, spend time with loved ones, get reenergized for a fully busy January ahead. It was a welcomed reprieve. Surely, most of the Indians will find their way to the weight room, run on their own, find a sparring partner or two and sneak into the mat room. State title contenders tend not to take a day off. Without any competitions, Scappoose was able to squeeze in a few instructional practices to stay sharp.

But without the pressure of a meet hanging over their heads, the Indians were able to exhale.

"You don't have to be the best team on December 26th, but you need to be as good as possible come the end of February," Scappoose head coach Nick Byrd said. "It's important physically and mentally that you're managing breaks. Most people can't go 100 percent, seven days a week for three months. You have to build in times where kids and coaches can relax and refocus. That way, when you're back in the (mat) room, you're able to work at a high level."

Scappoose's grapplers decide their weight classes based on where they can help the team and where their personal goals lie. Byrd and his staff allocate weights that they feel their team can be comfortable and grapple competitively at. The Indians train their tails off, undoubtedly. But they do so because of what they want to achieve both individually and collectively, not as some form of punishment meant to make them into men.

"I believe kids need to learn how to wrestle, not cut weight," Byrd said. "You can work hard and have a lot of fun at the same time, too. Kids enjoying being around their teammates is super important during the season. That way, you're working but it doesn't always feel like work. Our kids enjoy both of those things, so it's a fun combination."

Few teams took on a tougher December in-state slate than Scappoose. Tournaments at Liberty High, La Grande, Mountain View, Jefferson, Cascade and Castle Rock provided opportunities for this team to gel and buy into the team concept. Scappoose has seen the best from Crescent Valley's traveling all-star team to Century to Hillsboro to Aloha. Every year this type of gauntlet is created by Byrd and his staff by design. Feasting on cupcake schools creates a false sense of confidence. But taking on the state's behemoths forms fruitful plans of attack for future use and forges a belief, especially for the younger guys.

"I'm a really big believer that you need to get good competition in early and see what you need to work on," Byrd said. "Our goal is to be a top-four program in the state every year. You don't get that way by wrestling bad competition. You want to find the best competition you can and figure out ways to beat them. We could go find teams that we could beat up on, but that's not how you learn how to wrestle. That's just going to make us feel good about ourselves."

The younger classes are working well with the veterans and constructed a team bond that is much deeper than the surface level.

"It's a really good team atmosphere, people are wanting their teammates to succeed just as much as they want themselves to succeed," Byrd said.

The hard work some of Scappoose's more seasoned wrestlers have put in over the years is expectedly starting to pay off, Byrd said. AJ DeGrande (126 pounds) has been in every single match this year and beaten some really talented kids along the way. He's controlled matches the entire season and been impressive to watch, according to Byrd said. Cutter Sandstrom (285) is "wrestling at a different level" right now, Byrd said. He's a big man who wrestlers aggressively, picking guys off the ground and slamming to the mat for takedowns and falls.

"(Sandstrom) is not your typical heavyweight," Byrd said. "He's a heavyweight wrestling like a 152-pounder. He wants to be active. He takes the fight to people and he's not going to take sitting around for long at all. He wants to wrestle and not get into a stalling match. It's pretty awesome to watch. It's not surprising with how much work he's put in the past four or five years."

Freshman Trey Dieringer (170) has walked into the varsity room and beat some of the top-ranked athletes in the state, including some state placers.

"I can't say enough about that kid's work ethic and his desire to compete and fix things and get better every day, every match," Byrd said.

Anthony Comer is an "unbelievable" competitor at 120 pounds who jumped into a starting role as a freshman and competed against some of the best competition in Oregon and Washington.

"He's really gotten after it," Byrd said of Comer. "Those two have shown an unbelievable work ethic and drive so far."

Scappoose hosts Milwaukie on Thursday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. in its next Northwest Oregon Conference dual meet.

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