For Cross Keys High School’s wrestling team, it’s not about winning. It’s not about personal or team records. It’s not about pride. It’s simply about being able to compete.
For the first time in six years, Cross Keys produced a wrestling team to train under the direction of Head Coach Mark Adams. With extreme efforts from the school’s principal, Jason Heard, the Indians revived their program in 2016 and have yet to look back. Adams, who wrestled for Sequoyah High School, recently took over as the head football, head baseball and head wrestling coach at Cross Keys. As he wore green and white colors to compete, so do the Cross Keys Indians, who shifted their red and black school colors to accommodate the merge of the two schools. For Adams, he’s right back in familiar territory.
“This is home to me,” Adams said.
The head coach recognizes the tremendous impact that wrestling had on him as a young man, and he wants to introduce the sport to his team in the same light. Now that he’s on the mat with these budding individuals, he’s able to relate his passion for the sport.
Once the school confirmed the reestablishment of the program, Adams, Heard and the Cross Keys community began reaching out to students about joining the squad. With a no-cut policy and an initial 15 interested students, the team now consists of nine individuals who are already passionate about the sport and driven to achieve greatness.
Upon bringing back the program for the first time since 2011, the institution realized that a community- service organization with incredible intentions seemed to have discarded of the previously utilized mat. Under the leadership of Adams, Athletic Director Horace Dunson, and the entire District Athletic Department, efforts are being made to secure a replacement mat.
But, lack of a mat is in no way halting their immediate success. Entering the Area 5-5A Duals in late 2016, the Indians held a 0-6 record. During the tournament, they fell just short of a trip to the Class 5A State Duals – a feat that wasn’t even possible less than a year ago. Now, Adams and the entire team believe they have the talent to qualify for the state tournament next year and put some individuals on the stands in their respective weight classes.
Among the diverse group of wrestlers is an Athletic Officer enrolled in ROTC, an accomplished cross country runner, and a senior football captain. Although all of the team members have their own passions and focuses, they can now unite on the mat as an Indians wrestler.
Vanesa Rubio, a junior member of the team, came into the sport knowing she would have to be very competitive with the boys she’d be training and wrestling against.
“It’s something new and something that I knew most girls wouldn’t really want to do,” junior Rubio said.
Lone senior David Velazquez, understands what’s expected of him and embraces being a leader.
“It’s a tough role, but I’m helping to make sure everyone is on point,” Velazquez said. “Wrestling has been a crazy experience, everything from the uniforms to the techniques, but I really like it now and hope to do football and wrestling in college.”
Cesar Guzman also brings a fun and competitive outlook to the team, and he said he’d love to make a career of the sport because the meets are the best part of his experience with wrestling.
These three individuals and the rest of the team have been learning from the ground up, according to Adams. None of the individuals had any experience, but they’ve embraced this new sport and are bringing a fresh, new energy to Cross Keys through wrestling.
So, for Vanesa, it’s now about cross country and wrestling. For David, it’s about leading both his football and wrestling teammates to be the best they can be. For Cesar, it’s about pursuing the sport he’s grown to love with his friends. For Adams, it’s about ensuring his athletes have the best possible experience through the sport. And for Cross Keys High School, it’s now back to being about wrestling.