Valley wrestling coach Tyler Perry was once told it’s near impossible to win at the school.
But upon scanning the brick walls inside the school’s archaic gym, he noticed several wrestling banners and that the Vikings won five consecutive state championships from 1971 to 1975.
The school had 22 individual state champions during the 1970s.
“There is some history and tradition here,” Perry said. “There’s been winning done here, and it can be done here (again). You just got to change the culture a little bit.”
After spending his first two years as coach of the Vikings at the Class 4A level, Perry said he thinks his wrestlers are ready to re-establish a winning tradition and make a run in Class 3A behind a roster loaded with experience and talent.
“We’ve got guys competing and trying to tear each other’s heads off every day and then high-fiving afterward enjoying it,” Perry said. “And that’s something we haven’t had before. We’re at a point the kids have confidence in the system and the work they put in, and I hope we continue to get better.”
Getting better has meant pitting his wrestlers against top-notch programs during an early season schedule that included a trip to the Charger Duals at Clark and a visit to perennial powerhouse Green Valley in late November.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for (Perry),” said Green Valley coach Jon Ferry, who led the Gators to six straight Class 4A state titles from 2012 to 2017. “I know he puts the time in. You have to be the right guy for the job, and I think he is over there. He’s got the right background and mentality to put that team on the map.”
Rather than his room being divided by individuals looking for self-gratifying glory, Perry said the Vikings have finally built camaraderie and help one another daily.
He counts on several wrestlers to step up as leaders, including junior John Baloyot and senior Xzavier Maheia, who have been with the coach since his first day in charge.
“Last year I was doing wrestling because it got my mind off things,” said Maheia, whose stepbrother, Kishawn Washington, was killed in a North Las Vegas shooting in January 2016. “Now I’m wrestling because it seems like a future for me. I’d rather stick with it for those reasons instead of the negative reasons that were holding me here.”
Baloyot, 25-0 this season, has emerged as a legitimate threat in the 220-pound class.
“The mindset has always been pushing yourself to the limit,” Baloyot said. “I think of it as life. Life is hard, life is rough, but you have to come out somehow. You just have to get your mindset right, you’ve got to expect to win.”
That’s what Perry is hoping to see when the postseason rolls around.
“We’re hoping by the time we get there we’re gonna be pretty battle-tested and essentially we’re gonna be ready for anything that comes our way,” Perry said. “We’ve emphasized we plan on going and winning some state hardware in 3A this year.”