Chester’s gym smelled like wrestling last weekend; the distinct smell of blood, sweat and ammonia mixed together and filtered through the air.
Sixteen teams from all over the northern state gathered to compete one-on-one against each other. Between matches the officials ran out on the mats to wipe away the blood that inevitably dropped to the floor.
Wrestlers waited anxiously to get their turn on the mat. Coaches, parents and of course the wrestlers filled the gym with anticipation.
The sport is brutal; there’s no doubt about that. The wrestlers, on the other hand, are the furthest from that brutality.
After every match the wrestlers shook hands with the opposing wrestler and his coaches. Honor for the opponent and for the coaches was expected and delivered.
A sense of humility was evident in every wrestler. They all knew that no matter how good they were, there was someone better out there.
“There’s really no trash talking in wrestling,” mentioned Chester’s coach Tom Maumoynier. “There’s only one person who is state champ out of 26,000.”
There’s a sense of camaraderie present in wrestling that one doesn’t see in many sports. Wrestlers feel close to not only their teammates, but to their competition as well.
“It’s almost like a secret club,” explained Maumoynier. “Especially once wrestlers get to the state level, everyone is friends.”
Wrestling as a sport dwindled significantly in recent years. Of the four Plumas County high schools, Chester’s is the last one to have a wrestling team.
State funding toward high school athletics dropped considerably the last few years, and wrestling was hit the hardest. To keep the program afloat in Chester, the team raises all its own money.
“We have fundraisers all throughout the summer,” continued Maumoyner. “Transportation was the biggest obstacle, so we raised enough money to buy a Suburban. That kept us afloat and allowed us to go to bigger tournaments.”
Bigger tournaments give Chester’s wrestlers more exposure which help attract scholarships. Currently, three Chester alumni are wrestling in Division II colleges on scholarship.
Both of Maumoynier’s sons received scholarships and allowed them to afford college.
The program in Chester is especially strong for such a small school. Chester won the Northern Section’s Division IV five years in a row and rated seventh in all divisions in the Northern Section.
Rocklin Loranger and John Leal return to the team this year after being named Division I section champions last year.
What brings the team to such a high level is the exposure to tougher teams at different tournaments. Chester will travel to 10 other tournaments this season.
“Going to really big tournaments is really what makes us good,” said Maumoynier. “Three of the tournaments we’re going to this year are in the top ten tournaments of the nation.”
While many schools encourage their wrestlers to lose weight and drop to a lower weight class, Chester’s program promotes the exact opposite.
“We lift weights a lot and would rather our wrestlers build their strength and make it to a higher class,” explained Maumoynier.
Chester’s wrestlers train year round. Besides weight training, the team spends a majority of its time wrestling one another.
“We drill a lot,” said Maumoynier. “Once the wrestlers are in high school they already know some basic moves. We really focus on refining those moves.”
Chester’s team placed fifth overall in the tournament. Chico High School took first and Fernly High took second.
Both Loranger and Leal placed first in their weight classes. Loranger weighs in at 152 pounds and Leal at 160 pounds.
Silas Lagroue and TJ Eidhammer both placed second in their classes while Javier Conteras and Cole Conner placed third.