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The future of wrestling in SLO County

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Team photo of the 2023 Cuesta Men's Wrestling Team. Photo by Cuesta Athletics
Team photo of the 2023 Cuesta Men's Wrestling Team. Photo by Cuesta Athletics

Those involved in amateur wrestling are expressing excitement from the bounce-back in participation and engagement the sport is experiencing in SLO County.

Like many sports, the global pandemic severely affected wrestling due to the close contact required for participation. According to SLO High School Wrestling Head Coach Brandon Drucker, coaches noticed a large drop off in players willing to stick with their teams. The sport of wrestling had an uncertain future, which created a potential gap in the development of the sport.

In San Luis Obispo, many coaches have been trying to get participation numbers back to pre-pandemic levels. Their efforts are largely succeeding as most programs have experienced some of the largest wrestling classes to date. Drucker credits the coaches at local middle schools and elementary schools for the rapid rise he has seen this season alone.

“We’ve got a current push that has a lot of kids involved and wanting to participate,” Drucker said. “We’ve got steps all along the way coming up to make sure that everybody is passed from hand to hand and working towards the same goal.”

Drucker is a strong believer in this system, which is why he plans on bringing back club practices at San Luis Obispo High School this spring. His vision is to unify wrestlers of all ages in San Luis Obispo, so that each age group can directly connect to each other.

2023 San Luis Obispo High School wrestling team. Photo by Owen Main
2023 San Luis Obispo High School wrestling team. Photo by Owen Main

While Drucker and others have gotten to see the results of this recent local boom, Cuesta Wrestling Head Coach Joe Dansby has been waiting patiently for the trickle-down effect to hit the college level.

“Numbers are going up and that should work its way over to me in the next few years,” Dansby said, referring to the local youth movement in wrestling.

After placing 19th in the 2023 CCCAA State Wrestling Championship, Dansby aspires to get back into the top 10. With help from local schools, this could be a possibility in the near future, but Dansby also recognizes how far SLO County is from competing with other stronger regions.

“From Paso Robles to Santa Maria, you have 10 wrestling schools,” Dansby said. “For us to get into the top 10, we’re gonna need more than local kids.”

While Drucker, Dansby and others continue to work towards a bright future in men’s wrestling, women’s wrestling is also rising in popularity. The trickle-down system of growth in SLO wrestling has also included a new class of female wrestlers looking to compete. Because of this, Dansby announced that Cuesta will have a club women’s program, possibly as soon as next year. 

“It’s still an emerging sport so we would like to compete as a club next year in hopes by 2025 or 2026 to actually compete as a school,” Dansby said. “We’re gonna have the numbers and interest here.”

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