TWIN FALLS • Sometimes it’s just time for a change.
Saiid Dabestani had a long distinguished run at the helm of Twin Falls wrestling, but with the 2014-15 season still young, new head coach Dusty Skidmore has seemingly injected a jolt of energy into the program.
“Coach has been trying to make it a little more fun,” senior Spencer Geilman said. “Wrestling practice is hard, and a lot of the time it can be a grind. He knows that and he tries to help us embrace the grind. He tries to make it fun. He knows it sucks and he gets right in there and works with us.”
Step into the wrestling room and several changes are instantly apparent.
First, the numbers. Far more students came out for the team than in recent years, and most have stayed. Skidmore said the team currently boasts more than 40 wrestlers, enough to field a full varsity team and, with a few wrestlers bumping up a weight class, a full junior varsity squad.
“It’s good competition in the room,” Skidmore said. “If we make the competition good here, they’ll be ready when they step outside.”
It’s not just how many kids are in the room, but what they are doing. The team’s three captains—chosen by their teammates in another new move by Skidmore—Geilman (152 pounds) and fellow seniors Ryan Altom (160 pounds) and Keegan Luker (heavyweight) each commented that practices were different this season, faster with less time spent sitting around.
The new routine has paid quick dividends for Luker, the defending 4A District IV heavyweight champion. He started the season 6-0 over the weekend as the Bruins traveled to Boise for the Buck’s Bag Duals.
“I think the way he coaches is getting us in a lot better shape than we were last year,” Luker said. “I just noticed from my matches that I’m in better condition.”
It’s still not where Skidmore wants it, though.
“I always want to have the best conditioned team in the state,” Skidmore said. “Right now, I don’t have that, but by the end of the year, I will.”
Finally, look to the far wall of the wrestling room, with sheets of paper taped to it.
When he arrived, the coach had a single expectation.
“I expect everyone to give 100 percent,” Skidmore said. “That’s about it.”
To supplement that, Skidmore had each of his wrestlers write down three goals of their own and tape it to the wall of the wrestling room.
“Those goals really become my goals,” he said. “If a kid wants to become a state champ, it’s my job to get him there. If he wants to make it to state, that’s my job. If a kid wants to win five matches over the whole year, it’s my job to make sure that happens. Really, what I’ve found is when you get their goals up there and add them all together, that will exceed anything I wanted to do.”
Skidmore arrived at Twin Falls after two seasons leading 3A Shelley. He also spent time as both an assistant and head coach at Malad, his alma mater, and was an assistant at Highland for one season.
That season, Highland soundly defeated Twin Falls in a dual.
Later, in his first season at Shelley, Skidmore’s Russets lost to Dabestani’s Bruins. Some of the younger wrestlers on that Twin Falls team are now veterans for Skidmore.
As a result, memories of the former coach remain in the wrestling room, but the pressure of following in the shoes of a stalwart are already long gone for Skidmore.
“As far as his influence, I see that in some of the techniques the wrestlers use,” Skidmore said. “As far as pressure, being in that shadow, I don’t feel that anymore. I feel like the boys are buying in, they’re working hard, and they’re good kids.”