Champs field Spartan lineup

It’s standard procedure for high school wrestling champions to plot a strategy to repeat the year after winning it all.

Cimarron-Memorial might get around to that, but for now the Spartans must find a way to fill out a 14-man lineup.

The Spartans return only three varsity wrestlers from last season’s Class 4A state championship team. Being caught short-handed is a rare predicament for a program that has produced 33 individual state championships, including 2009 winners Britain Longmire and Travis DeGroat, and seven team state titles since 1999.

But 16th-year coach Tim Jeffries hesitates to label his program as “rebuilding.”

“You start off doing the things you know you need to do, such as developing a good work ethic and good habits early,” Jeffries said. “Those are the types of things that carry you through any season, whether you win a state championship or not.

“We lost six out of eight placers last year. It’s tough to fill, but we’ll do our best.”

It isn’t the typical road to a repeat championship, but Jeffries and co-coach Mike Garcia have traveled many paths in 29 combined years of coaching.

“(Repeating is) gonna be tough,” Garcia said, before adding, “It’s kind of a neat thing because you lose the core kids that have been varsity for a while, and you bring in a new group. (This year’s) group is more receptive, more attentive, and things aren’t blasé for them.”

Cimarron boasts at least one potential state champion in Colbey Garrison. The junior 135-pounder finished third at state as a freshman and second as a sophomore.

“You would think the next step would be a state championship in his mind,” Jeffries said. “The sky’s the limit for a young man like that.”

Garrison, whose father, Justin, was a two-time Nevada state champion, began training at age 10 on a mat in his garage.

With the Spartans looking for new leadership, Garrison relishes his new role.

“It’s my job to keep other kids in line,” he said with a grin.

And it’s not all bad, being part of such a young team.

“This year’s kids, they work hard,” Garrison said. “Last year, they would work hard but still take it easy sometimes.

“We won state last year … and they want to work as hard as they can so we have a shot at doing it again.”

Replacing the leadership of three-time state champion Longmire won’t be easy.

“He used to demonstrate all the moves and show us everything,” sophomore 103-pounder Bronson Ashjian said. “So with him gone, me and Colbey have to step up and be the leaders.”

Ashjian has been called an “intellectual” and “smart wrestler” by his coaches.

“You can see the gears moving in him as to how a move works,” Jeffries said.

Senior leadership probably will come from two-time state placer Aaron Garcia, who fills in at 189 pounds.

“He’s everything you want in a kid,” Mike Garcia said. “He works his butt off. He gets the job done. His work ethic is as good as you get.”

Charles Bernardino and Anthony Heat will lead a large group transitioning from junior varsity to varsity.

“Our expectations are extremely high, and they’re always going to be,” Mike Garcia said. “We demand a lot of our kids. I think they’re going to perform. I don’t see us having any regrets in the end, unless something strange happens.”

Contact reporter Sean Walker at swalker@ or 702-383-0430.

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