Mojave loaded for run at state repeat

The Mojave wrestling team will assemble one by one on a bus to go to the state wrestling finals. They’ll file on in order, 12 wrestlers having qualified for the tournament, ready to support each other.

Arbor View’s Steven Ireland, meanwhile, will jump into coach Jeff Bzoskie’s car, just the two of them.

Ireland is the Aggies’ lone representative at the state tournament, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. today at Cimarron-Memorial. He’s the team’s best shot at a title, its only shot.

The dynamic of a state wrestling tournament is striking — a handful of programs are competing for the state title, but most teams have just a few representatives. Several coaches said it was difficult to balance the hopes of a team and the dreams of an individual, but in the end, they have to put on a happy face for their wrestlers.

“When I’m around Stevie, he doesn’t see any of the regret,” Bzoskie said. “But when I’m by myself, I’m definitely hurt by the team result, looking at my own inadequacies.”

This week, though, Bzoskie has been able to focus all of his energy on Ireland, in a wrestling room that resembled a ghost town. Now, Ireland heads into the tournament with high hopes and a singular goal.

And a lot of pressure.

“It was just a few of my friends coming to help me out,” the 145-pound wrestler said of practice this week. “And I’m feeling some pressure because it’s only me — I mean, they’re advertising it around the school.”

The toughest part about being on that island, Ireland said, was the lack of extrinsic motivation. Being one of one is certainly different from being one of 12, as Ireland doesn’t have the distraction of his teammates’ performances.

“It’s a lot harder to get motivated to work out,” Ireland said. “But I’ve got to. This is my senior year, and I get a lot of self motivation from that.

“I’m just focused on myself right now.”

Eldorado’s DeAndre Smith (171 pounds) knows the feeling. Same with Clark’s Amos Bailey (160) and Jakob Payton (119), as they represent the Chargers.

But that won’t be a problem for the Rattlers. With 11 regional qualifiers and one alternate, Mojave has the inside track at its second straight state title and should face stiff competition from Cimarron-Memorial and Las Vegas.

“Bringing 12 guys makes it seem way easier,” said Reggie Powers, who won the state title at 189 pounds last season but is competing for the championship at 215 pounds this year. “We’ve got guys who can score points everywhere. My team is with me the whole way. That definitely helps a lot. They watch every match.”

Said Rattlers coach Colin Wilson: “It’s not only the fact that we have so many boys, but it’s that the guys who didn’t make it are still helping. We pretty much had the same number of people this week as all season. The biggest thing about taking a large number is they feed off each other’s excitement.”

Contact reporter Jon Gold at jgold@ or (702) 380-4587.

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