Mill Valley wrestling brings in two-time collegiate champion
There’s a reason Mill Valley’s wrestling team has been one of the best the past few years in Class 5A.
Year in and year out, the Jaguars send wrestlers to junior and cadet nationals to wrestle in freestyle and Greco-Roman, and this year is no different.
“It’s one of the big reasons we are a good program during the season because these kids put the time in at the national level,” coach Travis Keal said. “They’re training year round. To win matches at a national level, you have to train at a high level.”
Two weeks ago Jarrett Bendure went 7-1 at Cadet National Duals in York, Pa., which earned him All-American honors. He also went 5-3 in Greco-Roman.
“Most of the guys there are state champs,” Bendure said. “It takes motivation, and you have to be wrestling for something for you to go out there and do the best.”
It was OK that he wasn’t drilling during camp, but was still watching and learning, as he wrestled 16 matches in four days.
He said it’s difficult to wrestle four matches a day as it wears on the body, but he said it gives him practice.
It’s big confidence boost to go 7-1 in freestyle as he helped Kansas place 14th, Bendure said.
“It gives me confidence that I can hang with the tough guys and beat them and place higher in state,” he said of next February.
Keal said anytime somebody can go to a national tournament and be successful and defeat high-level kids, that will do wonders for confidence. He thinks Bendure is sitting in a good spot right now before nationals in Fargo, N.D., July 16 through 23.
But Bendure may not attend as his grandfather, whom he was close with, passed away while Bendure was in Pennsylvania. Bendure said Jim Bendure’s life celebration will be around the same time as the Fargo tournament.
“There’s some things they have to work through with family,” Keal said. “That will be their decision. Wrestling is important, but family is way more important.”
Last week, Connor Ward, who finished second in the state for the second year in a row at 126 pounds, wrestled at the Junior National Duals in Tulsa, Okla.
Those two, along with a few others from Mill Valley, will make the trip up north.
For the others not wrestling on the national scene, they used last week as a time to learn from one of the nation’s best — Chris Perry, who won two NCAA titles while at Oklahoma State.
Perry and Cliff Fretwell have been to Mill Valley before.
Keal likes what those two can teach because Keal teaches wrestling as a system and Perry and Fretwell have their system, too. He said teaching random moves doesn’t help the athletes get better.
Instead of having the same camp over and over where they learn the same things, Keal talked with Perry and Fretwell about where the Jaguars are, where they want to be and what they need to work on to get there.
“When we get done with the season, I sit down and look at the areas we need to improve on,” Keal said. “Whatever we bring in here, it has to be in those areas. It’s not going to be random.
“I asked them specifically to work on some things — underhooks, hand fighting, leg attacks.”
Keal is going to work with Ward on some of the new things learned. Keal had Jett Bendure film the sessions.
“His dad just sent me videos of him right now,” Keal said of one of Ward’s matches from Tulsa. “I need to watch his two previous matches, but I won’t throw a bunch of stuff at him.”
During camp, most of the wrestlers were Jaguars, but two came from Manhattan to learn from Perry.
Keal said it’s good for the school because they get to see the community. At this point in the year he wants to reach wrestlers from across the state.
Once the season is over, Mill Valley serves as a regional training center.
“To me, if you’re making other people better, that helps you get better and it helps the sport of wrestling better,” Keal said.