SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Schriever’s Children of Valor club wrestling team finished 31st overall during the Wild West Nationals event in Gillette, Wyoming, Feb. 4.
The daylong event featured more than 145 teams and 1,200 wrestlers from 19 states.
“This was a tough, compact tournament,” said Morris Thomas, Children of Valor coach. “We had a great day overall.”
Thomas said he heard about the event through other coaches and thought it would be a good experience for his team.
“They got to go see a large-scale tournament,” he said. “We took some lumps, but had some guys show up big as well.”
Three of the 12 Schriever wrestlers earned top-10 finishes. Andrew Wulf: 15 and under, 137-pounds; and Brayden Garcia: 6 and under, 61-pounds; both finished sixth. Jadon Janaros, 13-15 rookie, 130-pounds, took first place in his division and earned Rookie All-American honors.
Janaros won his first match with a 12-2 major decision and, after a second-round bye, won the finals via pin fall.
“I felt relief the match was over and excited that I took first place,” Janaros said. “(Wrestling) is not like any other sport that I’ve played. It takes a lot of heart and determination.”
The Wild West Nationals are part of the Rocky Mountain Nationals Events, a national youth sports organization.
The trip to Gillette served a dual purpose as Thomas said it provided a team bonding experience.
“Gillette is a nice, quaint town and the kids got to see each other outside of wrestling,” Thomas said. “It made the team stronger. We have a strong group of wrestlers.”
The group now turns its focus to the Colorado State Youth Wrestling Championships Feb. 25 and 26 in Castle Rock, Colorado. The team finished fifth out of 191 teams in 2016.
“We’re hoping to finish in the top-10 again,” Thomas said.
Children of Valor wrestlers have had a high success rate since Thomas, a staff sergeant with the 50th Space Wing Safety office, formed the team a little more than a year ago.
“We just passed 500 wins as a team,” Thomas said.
More than the success though, Thomas values passing his passion for wrestling, and the life lessons it teaches, on to the next generation.
“I get giddy talking about wrestling, and I love talking about these kids,” he said. “I get to live my dream coaching youth.”
Thomas’ lessons are resonating with his wrestlers.
“Coach has not only helped me be a better wrestler, but a better person,” Janaros said.