No state experience, nothing to lose.

That’s the mantra of the Delta High School wrestling team this season. The COVID-19 pandemic limited the amount of state qualifiers last season, potentially costing spots for a Panthers team with strong wrestlers in upper weight classes.

Delta coach Luis Meza said the first thing he’s done since returning to a full-season schedule is instill a mindset in his team.

“Wrestling is tough,” Meza said. “You need to embrace it and get after it to make a name for yourself. I told them ‘not one of you guys was a state qualifier, no one has state experience, so you have nothing to lose.’ So, we’ve been pushing their limits a little bit and working on building that toughness and wrestling mentality.”

Meza added that the team has embraced it and that he’s looked to seniors to gauge how well the practices are working.

“They’ve embraced it,” the coach said. “I’ve been asking these older guys if it’s too light or if I’m pushing too hard and I’ve been getting good feedback. They’re also holding the young kids accountable, which is great if you’re trying to push wrestlers to their limit. We’re doing this together and they’ve been responsive.”

The Panthers’ prowess is largely centered around upper weights, with Treyton Sandoval at heavyweight, Gus Butler at 220 pounds, Clay Sandridge at 170 pounds, Royce Barrios at 160 pounds and Tim Horn at 152 pounds. Meza said Sebastian Chavez at 120 pounds and Kyle Chaffin at 113 pounds were part of the team’s leadership, as well. The coach added that a couple freshmen are challenging for larger roles on the team but will have to fight to earn their spots.

The Panthers open their season on Dec. 4 at the Colorado Mesa University Duals in Grand Junction. Meza said the team has limited their early season dual schedule because of the continued success of the football program.

“We’ve pushed most of our duals into January because, at least for the past 10 years or so, this football program has been really successful,” Meza said, adding that he’s part of the coaching staff for the football team. “We’d roll into a dual with like seven guys. That’s a good problem to have though because strong athletes help out every program.”

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