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Midvale Journal

Husky wrestling program’s growth MUSHes on

Jan 27, 2017 02:53PM ● By Travis Barton

A Hillcrest wrestler takes down his opponent on Dec. 20 in Provo. (Steve Carnahan/MyTopPix)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]


Dog sled racing involves pulling a sled across wintry terrain requiring the canines to be relentless and tough. That’s exactly what Hillcrest wrestling coach Gentry Gasser wants from his wrestlers.


The Hillcrest High School wrestling team is made up of 25-30 members with the team slogan of MUSH, the word used by dog sled racers to urge their dogs forward. Sled dogs are typically huskies — Hillcrest’s mascot.


“[Sled dogs] are incredible. You have to control them or they’ll run themselves to death, they just want to get up and go,” Gasser said. “It seemed like something that would be good for our wrestling team to try and emulate that attitude.”


Gasser, with the help of his brother, brought the MUSH mantra to the program when he took over four years ago. He said it’s evolved over the years eventually becoming an acronym for mettle, unity, service and honor.


“While obviously, natural athletic ability is extremely beneficial; this is one of the few sports where I think just straight hard work makes up that ground really fast,” Gasser said.


Junior Cole Underwood said for him it means “you have nothing to lose, don’t stop until you’re satisfied with what you want.”


Junior Keala Mahe said MUSH applies to life as much as it does wrestling.


“We don’t want to be mediocre, we want to be the best that we can be. Not just in wrestling but in school, at home, everything,” Mahe said.


Gasser said the team is made up of many beginners. Students who are in their first or second year wrestling or those who simply don’t wrestle year-round. Part of the improvement he’s seen throughout the season is the development of the technical side.


“It’s nice to see it kind of start to click in their heads and see them put it together on the mat,” Gasser said.


Communication plays an important role with that understanding. Mahe, competes in the 220 lb. weight class, said that improved communication has stimulated the team’s growth.


“Just connecting with the coach, understanding what he wants, it’s a lot better,” Mahe said. He added it’s helped make Underwood a good wrestler. Underwood competes in the 120 lb. weight class.


“Cole listens to the coaches and he’s humble. He doesn’t talk trash, he gets up, gets ready for his match and goes for it,” Mahe said.


Members of the team noted how their fitness has increased throughout the season, especially after the first month. A time, Gasser said, when many students drop out due to the physical responsibilities required. Mostly body weight exercises, cardio work and explosive exercises are done to build up endurance in those first few weeks. 


“If I can get them through that, usually they stay,” Gasser said. Usually they start the year with around 40 members before some drop out in those first few weeks before competitions start.


The biggest reward for those who survive the first month and finish the season, Gasser said, is the lesson that “they can do hard things.” Whether it’s on the mat, in the classroom, with a family situation or at work.


“I want them to realize there are hard things in life that come at us all the time, and through hard work and grit and determination they can overcome those hard things,” Gasser said.


He said that’s the best part of coaching for him, seeing his wrestlers recognize how difficult it can be and getting through it.


With the 4A state tournament to take place on Feb. 8-9 at Utah Valley University, Gasser is hopeful to have anywhere from three to five wrestlers qualify for the tournament. Two of them, he said should be legitimate contenders to place, meaning they took fifth place or better.  


“If we can get a couple guys to place that’ll be a big improvement, [Hillcrest] hasn’t had anybody place in a lot of years,” Gasser said.


Gasser said he’ll know this year’s season was a success if all eligible members of the team return next season.


“That’s the only way we’ll ever continue to improve as a team is if we get those guys to keep coming back,” Gasser said.