For high school athletes determined to grow their talents to the best of their abilities, the NIAA’s announcement to push all high school sports to January – while limiting each season to six weeks – was crushing.
However, those same athletes who knew the heartbreak of losing the end of their last school year, have been forced to grow and adjust with the times.
For multi-sport athletes like Douglas High’s Wyatt Grisell and Carson High’s Ariel Vega, along with countless others, the shortened sports seasons have only fueled their drive to keep pushing.
Both Grisell and Vega are in the midst of beginning their senior years of high school, knowing it won’t be what they previously expected.
There’s been restrictions and new protocols every step of the way, but whether the two seniors realize it or not, it’s forced them both to show their resiliency.
Grisell has made an impression on his coaches in football, wrestling and baseball, while Vega has helped the Senators find a ton of success on the soccer field and in the wrestling room.
Though the prep sports calendar is a few months away from kicking off, many have openly wondered if six-week seasons were going to continue to push the decline of the multi-sport athlete.
It’s a possibility that doesn’t draw much ire from Grisell or Vega.
“I’m not super concerned right now. Obviously, I wish the football season was a little longer,” said Grisell. “… I’m just going to focus on whatever comes first.”
Vega admits his priorities may have shifted slightly, but it’s not due to a condensed calendar.
“I’m definitely choosing more toward the wrestling side, but I’m going to do both. Since last year with state, it really opened my eyes. I’m really pushing to be a state champ,” Vega said, who went 1-2 at state after finishing second in the Class 4A 113-pound Northern regional.
However, making it back to state is unlikely to come to fruition for Vega after the NIAA also stated that state tournaments “are not anticipated” for the coming seasons.
There’s absolutely disappointment, but both athletes know they’ll have to take advantage of whatever time they’re given.
Making themselves better
Grisell said he’s put on 15-20 pounds after dedicating himself to his home weight room this summer.
He is also one of four Douglas football players coming off a Best Coast Showcase appearance in early August, where he demonstrated his ability at corner in front of numerous scouts.
“Being in shape, being strong and healthy will help no matter what sport I’m doing,” said Grisell. “I’m looking to be one of the best corners in the north come this season and I want to help my team win a northern championship.”
The showcase couldn’t have been better timed for Grisell, who said he has been recovering from a couple of nagging injuries this summer along with missing other showcase camps that were canceled.
Vega echoed Grisell’s sentiment on work ethic, adding that he’s been in the gym every day since it re-opened.
Both know that the tough reality of only a potential regional championship will have to suffice.
“I’m bummed out that there’s no state (championships),” said Vega, “but I would have been more bummed out if there was no sports. Wrestling has had the most impact on my life, the coaches, the people, you know? So, I’m grateful for the six weeks.”
The pandemic has adjusted the attitudes of these two multi-sport athletes as they enter their respective senior years, but there is something to be said for their resiliency to keep improving – even if the future is uncertain.
That is a character trait that will prove to be valuable long after the two have moved on from high school.