Wrestling: A Multi-purpose Sport
Wrestling and Jesus may not be commonly associated with each other, but for Chris DiCugno they are.
The Cascade Christian High School math teacher is also the Junior High and High School Wrestling Coach, and he believes wrestling at CCS should be an experience in discipline, growth and outreach.
Having just finished his third year as head wrestling coach, he says he loves the challenge of growing the wrestling program. "It affords me the opportunity to really connect with young people to help them discover themselves and mature," he added.
"I often say to my athletes wrestling is the ultimate team sport and the ultimate individual sport," he continued. "They cannot win without each other as training partners and they cannot win unless everybody works. We may have a star athlete on our team, but they can only score us a defined number of points. The rest of the team must also contribute in order for us to succeed."
"I believe this dynamic reflect our Christian walk as well, in that our relationship with Jesus is individual…we must choose him and follow him. However there is also the team aspect to our faith…we need each other as members of one body."
"I want a wrestling season to consist of incredible mental and physical challenge and for our young athletes to see sport and a chance to share about Jesus Christ," he said. "I want our wrestlers to witness to their teammates and to others by example in our discipline and commitment to excellence and also in our words. I want our wrestling program to grow in order to affect more students at CCS, and also more students that we compete against."
DiCugno started wrestling in Auburn when he was in the eighth grade. He went on to wrestle at Pacific Lutheran University. In 1995, he started his coaching career at Auburn-Riverside High School, and has been coaching all age levels ever since.
"I enjoyed wrestling as an athlete because it is fun. Most every parent knows that when you host a sleep over, there is a very good chance that a wrestling match will break out.”
Equally important to the fun are the bigger life skills taught through wrestling. Discipline, focus, and determination are all paramount to being successful at wrestling and in life.
"Wrestling teaches an individual that they can work harder than they ever thought they could before," he explained. "This is an invaluable life lesson."
"Leadership within a team is also a huge determining factor of success," he explained. "This last season I had strong senior leadership." DiCugno said next year the graduating seniors will be missed.
"I have five guys: Peyton Berry, Andrew Jennings, Teave' Metzger-Magalei, Zack Miller and Taylor Backus, who have all brought to the table leadership and respect," he said. "Most of all, this group in particular has a unique gift of team unity. They are all especially kind to the younger wrestlers and also to their opponents. All of them are very nice and social guys. Many times after matches, I would have to drag our seniors onto the bus because they were engrossed in a conversation (often spiritual in nature) with a member of the other team or even their families!"
DiCugno is also happy to see the increased popularity and notoriety wrestling is gaining at CCS. He is excited that Cascade Christian students seem genuinely interested in the team's success and supporting them.
"I have also been excited to begin tangibly blessing the teams we compete against," he said. "This year our parents have begun providing cookies and snack bags to share with our opponents after the matches. We see it as a small way to say 'We consider it a blessing to compete against you.'"
Making it to state this year were freshman, Henry Thompson; junior, Sean Hussey (also a regional champion and academic honorable mention); senior, Taylor Backus, who was a first year wrestler; senior Peyton Berry, who finished in eighth place; and senior Teave Metzger-Magalei, who finished third. In addition, senior Andrew Jennings was a state alternate and league MVP, as voted on by the Nisqually league coaches.
"We were academic state champions because we have smart kids with incredible parents who work hard to help their kids succeed," DiCugno said, smiling.
"The biggest obstacle we have is participation," he said. "As our team grows in size, we will fill more weight classes, and have more workout partners. This makes everyone better, and makes our team more successful. Of our 20 member team, 10 of them are freshman. Our team is young, but our future bright.