Spartans take third at Soeby Classic

Berthoud’s 132-pound wrestler Austyn Binkly grapples with Weld Central’s Jaxon Keeler during the fi rst round of the annual Soeby Spartan Classic at Berthoud High School on Jan. 21. Binkley won all four of his matches during the
tournament, leading his team to a third-place finish.
John Gardner / The Surveyor

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

For a program that has enjoyed nearly-uninterrupted, decades-long success, the Berthoud High School (BHS) wrestling program having a rebuilding year is something of a foreign concept. Yet, for long-tenured co-head coaches, Scott Pickert and Wil Carron, the message and approach remain unchanged – work hard, focus on fundamentals and compete fiercely.

Berthoud is a team heavy on youth and have also suffered a spat of injuries over the course of the season, yet the team is still finding success.

“I think it’s all about just continuing to work hard; work on our technique and really work on building confidence in these young men to compete at this level,” said Pickert. “We have a lot of freshmen in the lineup who are seeing some of their first varsity action this year.”

Berthoud took third place in their annual 12-team Soeby Classic tilt at BHS this past weekend with a pair of wrestlers – L.T. Torres and Austyn Binkly – winning all four of their bouts on the day. With regionals just over two weeks away, the Spartans are aware they will likely not being sending the dozen-plus wrestlers to state this season as they did last year, but there are more than a few bright spots to be found.

As Picket explained, “I think Coach Carron has done an excellent job emphasizing our footwork and, I don’t want to say we’ve been dominant on our feet, but we’re controlling the action and being very successful on our feet. If anything, our weak point would be our bottom work at this point.”

Berthoud senior Matt Bailey gets the upper position against Sheridan’s Diego Madrigal in the 38-pound division on Jan. 21 at BHS.
John Gardner / The Surveyor

Binkly, a 2016 state placer as a freshman, has been the Spartans highest-ranked wrestler throughout the season, success he attributes to fine-tuning some parts his technique, but also to a mental approach that blocks out the background noise and focuses on the here and now.

“This year the biggest thing I changed was my confidence. Last year I didn’t have the same confidence. I’d look at rankings all the time and get really nervous,” Binkly, the 132-pound sophomore, explained. “This year my mentality is completely different; I don’t look at rankings, I don’t look at seeding, I just go out and wrestle and try to impose what I do and not be worried about what they do.”

Wrestling up one weight class from last season has not affected Binkly – currently ranked in the top-five in 3A with the postseason right around the corner ­– who explained making weight this year has not been an issue as he focuses on model nutrition and hydration rather than on shedding pounds prior to each weigh-in.

On the mat, the sophomore is more comfortable and believes he has a more complete arsenal of moves and can score from any position.

“It’s just been trying to score, score, score, score,” Binkly said. “Last year I’d try to keep matches on my feet because I wasn’t as strong and I couldn’t get out of bottom very well, so I’d try to keep it close. Over summer all I did was I worked on tilts and stuff like that, and I haven’t had a problem getting out from bottom at all.”

While young, Binkly, along with Matt Bailey, Isiah Garcia, Wyatt Larson and C.J. Balliet, all four of whom competed at the state championships last year, has brought experience to the room that has been of enormous benefit to their younger teammates.

“It’s definitely been great to have those guys who have, not only the mat experience, but the tournament experience in the room, because they can show they younger kids the ropes,” Pickert said. “It’s been great to have that this year.”

Bailey is aiming for his fourth-straight trip to state.

Sophomore Miguel Sarmiento is one wrestler who has caught his coaches’ eyes on numerous occasions over the course of the season, despite a dearth of experience. Carron explained he and Pickert were not sure if Sarmiento was going to wrestle this year, but both are very pleased he has and has been showing remarkable progress week in, week out.

“Miguel has definitely surprised us this year,” Carron said, while touching on the familiar themes of work ethic and dedication. “It’s all his hard work; he’s determined every time he walks out there on the mat. You know every time Miguel walks out there he’s going to give you 110 percent of everything he has every single time.”

Pickert added, “He’s really coachable, he really listens, he understands, he puts to use what we’re trying to teach him. After a few times of doing it he really gets it. He really has a good concept of what’s going on.”

The Spartans will compete in a dual with Holy Family on Jan. 26 before taking to the mat in the annual Viking Invitational in Gilcrest on Jan. 28. Berthoud will have their final tune-up before regionals when they host Frederick for a dual in the BHS gym on Feb. 2.