Bruins’ lofty goals on the backburner

Led by strong seniors, Bear River strives to bring home first PVL wrestling title banner
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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LAKE OF THE PINES — The excitement Harley Sauers had last season as he watched his brother, Nick Sauers, win the Pioneer Valley League title and compete in the California Interscholastic Federation Masters tournament was only equaled by the pain he felt. Harley Sauers, a senior wrestler at Bear River High, finished the season ineligible after his grades slipped. “Devastated,” Sauers said about being ineligible last season. “This is my thing, football and wrestling. I’m back this year with a lot more work ethic and desire. Last year was mostly about fun and my grades slipped because of that and this year I have one goal and that’s state.” Sauers’ quote is a microcosm of what this season may have in store for the Bruins. Bear River coach Kevin Figueroa pointed to grades and sickness as his biggest worries, while his senior-laden team talked about lofty goals. The combination could be a pitfall for the Bruins, which makes the coach’s job just that much more important. “They can’t look at sections, they can’t look at Masters, they can’t look at state because if they take their focus off of what’s tomorrow you’re going to lose the next day,” Figueroa said. “One easy person can beat them and they’re done. We’re just trying to get them to not dream – achieve. Small little accomplishments they equal out a big goal.” The Bruins beat Lincoln 48-24 Wednesday in their first dual meet of the season. Nick Sauers, Dallen Stone and Michael Merrill all won their bouts in a contest that was close until the last three bouts. Weight has been another issue early this season. At the final practice before their dual meet several Bruins practiced in sweatshirts and pants to help the weight-cutting process. “There’s only like three kids that are close to their weight but we’ve got about six kids that we’re going to have monitor their weight all season long,” Figueroa said. “It’s progressive but as long as they don’t cut and they just monitor their intake and they’re doing it right, it’s perfect.” One of the wrestlers dealing with weight issues is Nick Sauers. The senior has carried an extra two pounds more than he did last year when he finished fourth in Division III sectionals as a 130-pounder, but is looking forward to the two-pound growth allowance, which begins Jan. 15. “So it’s pretty tough keeping the weight down but it’s not too bad,” Sauers said. “The biggest one, we don’t have a lot of kids here so competition-wise it’s not bad but I would love to see some more people out here.” Bear River is accustomed to having about 35 wresters, including a handful of girls, on the squad but has seen that number dwindle to 26. The good news, for this year at least, is that the bulk of those are experienced seniors. The Sauers brothers are both seniors along with Merrill, who anchors the 220-pound slot; Dallen Stone, who made it to sectionals last year, is at 138 pounds; Jake Jarman at 182 pounds and 120-pounder Darlene Julian, who is the only girl remaining on the team. “This year, I think the team’s a lot closer now so I don’t really feel the difference between not having any girls anymore,” Julian said of the Bruins, who had four girls when she was a freshman. “Also, since this is our senior year I feel like everyone is a lot closer because we’ve gone through every single year together.” Camaraderie and a steady crop of seniors is usually a good recipe for success but as Figueroa and a few members of the team point out, managing expectations is the final piece of the puzzle. The hardest thing in any sport is not getting burned out by the end of the season,” said Jarman, who is a three-sport athlete at Bear River with football and baseball comprising the other two. “You’ve got to keep thinking about the prize instead of keep thinking about the pressure.”