The J.E.B. Stuart High School wrestling team is one of the local squads on the rise.
For evidence of such, just take a look at the 50 kids the team had come out for the team this year.
That’s a lot of bodies looking to grapple.
Part of this growing success can be attributed to head coach Donald Balsavich, entering his third year as the head coach of the program. His goals are lofty – to get his entire squad to regionals and then the state tournament – but those goals are a starting place to motivate the team to new heights.
“Those are very high goals, but if we don’t set out goals very high, we have nothing to shoot for,” said the coach. “So we set our goals as high as possible. “
One challenge that the Raiders face is a lot of inexperienced wrestlers.
Of those 50 who went out for the team, a large number haven’t wrestled before, meaning Balsavich and his coaching staff had to focus on the fundamentals of grappling as opposed to the tricks of the trade and more advanced training.
“Our biggest challenge is that we don’t have a feeder youth program,” said the coach. “We’re trying to start one up. They’re very new to the sport.”
Because of all the youth, Balsavich is looking to his seniors to guide the team. Last season, the Raiders had 11 of 14 wrestlers make the regionals. To regain – or top – that success will be a driving force this season.
“Our strengths this year are going to be our seniors, our senior leaders who are coming back from last year.,” said Balsavich. “Now that they know what it’s all about, hopefully they can take that to the state tournament.”
One wrestler that is expected to lead the charge is senior Alaaeddin Teriaoui, who wrestles in the 152 weight class.
“I’ve been working this whole offseason, since last year,” said Teriaoui. “This year I got more work in. I’ll be working harder.
“I just feel confident,” he added. “I’m not worried about losing.”
Balsavich is also looking to Kirubel Admassu to make an impact. Admassu was a district champ at the 112 weight level last year, and will wrestle 119 this season.
Other grapplers expected to set the tone this season are Sergio Valdez (140), Tommy Tran (145) and Brian Backovic (160)
“Just work hard,” said Backovic, who didn’t wrestle varsity last season. “States would be nice. As long as I know I tried my best.
“Just setting a role for the young kids and setting as example of what they want to aim for,” Backovic added as his goals.
The Stuart wrestling team opens its season at the two-day Prince William County Invitational at Garfield High, this Friday and Saturday.