Western Wyoming at the 2021 NJCAA National Championships (Photo Courtesy of NJCAA.org)
At times, a source of motivation is what makes or breaks a wrestling season. Starting the season with a false source of motivation or a drained amount of motivation can be detrimental come March.
At Western Wyoming, the five-and-a-half-point deficit from winning the 2021 NJCAA National Title is a lingering and powerful source of motivation heading into this season.
While it would be easy to make a case based on the final team scores alone that the Mustangs have something to prove, that might not be necessary heading into this season.
"I'd look over and say oooh there's another one," Head Coach Art Castillo refers to the ten All-Americans his lineup secured in the 2021 season. "
"Having ten All-Americans is unbelievable," Castillo said. "I knew our job was far from over."
The NJCAA Wrestling season ran from January to April. What, at face value, was the shortest season Castillo has coached in for the duration of his time at Western Wyoming, ended up being the longest.
Training began the last week of August, while nationals still took place in April. As with many teams, training in pods and the waves of contact tracing controlled the preparation for nationals.
"You can only grind so long without the prize," Castillo said. His athletes, however, trusted the process. They had faith in their coaching staff.
Heading into this season, it is simple for the Mustangs. The talent in the room has been proven, but the job is still far from over.
"Our leaders set the [precedent] from minute one when they step on campus here," and that precedent is motivation enough for the Mustangs to know they have something to prove heading into this season.
The Mustangs were in action over the weekend at the Younes Hospitality Open, hosted by DII power Nebraska-Kearney. Five Western Wyoming wrestlers placed in the top six at the event, including Cole Jensen (Amateur - 125; 2nd), Caleb Nathan (Amateur - 141; 5th), Christian Smoot (Amateur - 174; 3rd), Andrew Nicholson (Amateur - 184; 4th), Tyler Scheurn (Amateur - 197; 3rd).
Their motivation, may include much more than the five and a half-point difference, but come March, the Mustangs and their team score have something to prove.