The first round might not have gone the way they hoped, but sometimes that’s how it goes when you’re setting the standard.
Brewster High School’s Zack Johnson sat against the wall late Friday morning in Gross Memorial Coliseum, leaning his head dejectedly against his hand as his coach, Chris Allen, kneeled in front of him for a pep talk.
Johnson, a junior, had just lost his first match in the 285-pound weight division at the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament.
It wasn’t just his first appearance at state. It also was his school’s.
Brewster’s wrestling program is only in its second year.
“We started out with two kids last year. This year, I had five,” Allen said.
But through the season, the squad dwindled. One broke an ankle. Another had season-ending surgery. A German exchange student went back home. Another had grade issues.
Johnson made it to state despite some drawbacks of having such a new wrestling program.
“There’s not many people in the wrestling room. I don’t have anybody to practice that’s my same weight,” he said.
He wrestled at Colby in eighth grade, but Johnson said he likes the Brewster program.
“I like the coach better. I like the workouts. They’re a little bit harder than they were at Colby,” he said.
Allen likewise had praise for his protege.
“One of the best students in Brewster. Just a real good kid, pleasure to coach,” he said.
“He does not like to lose. I explained to him, you’re the standard now in Brewster. They’ve got to live up to what you do.”
Allen said he’s been around wrestling since he was 14. Originally from Ohio, he grew up in California and competed until he was 28. He works as a power plant operator for a contractor with Midwest Energy, running a gas turbine in Colby. He was asked by a parent to start the school’s wrestling program, he said.
Johnson improved from last year's finish, Allen said.
“Last year, he didn’t win a match at regionals. He went two-and-out. This year, he went four and one. So he’s third,” he said.
“He’s got to win four to get the medal.”
Johnson’s loss in the first round put him out of contention for a state title, and a loss in the first round of the consolation bracket dropped him out of the tourney.
But that just drives his coach.
“Next year,” Allen said. “We’re still going to try and come back and get a medal.”