By Michael Kinney
Coach Brian Picklo looks for certain kind of wrestlers for his Mustang squad. He calls them grinders and it’s what he has built his program around.
“I want somebody that’s able to finish a match stronger than they start,” Picklo said. “Somebody that’s able to compete for three full periods to be able to push the pace to be able to impose their will, and clearly make the opponent hate wrestling them. That’s the style that I’m trying to create.”
While the season has just begun for the Broncos, Picklo may have a team that fits his grinder attitude.
Mustang opened its dual season Dec. 1 by taking on Piedmont at home. They won the match and Picklo was impressed with what he saw from his team.
“We had a close match with Piedmont. Now we came down to the last match,” Picklo said. “We were tied going into the last match, and our 120 pounder was able to be the tough kid in order to close out the duel and give us a win. Piedmont I think is ranked No. 5 in 5A and we’re ranked No. 6 in 6A. They’ve got some tough kids. The way it played out, it just ended up being a really exciting duel.”
The win could be an early sign of just how good the Broncos can be this season. While they are young, the team wants to do special things.
“Our kids are hungry. We’re a young team,” Picklo said. “We’ve got about six freshmen in the lineup but those freshmen are talented and they’re hungry. So I’m excited to have a really young team but a really tough team despite that.”
Yet, it hasn’t come as a surprise to Picklo.
“I’ve coached in the little league here in Mustang since 2009. Most of these kids have been wrestling with me since they were seven or eight years old,” Picklo said. “These kids have literally wrestled for me since they’re children. Now they’re getting up into the high school ages and we just developed a really tough program from the ground up. We started with nothing, with an empty cupboard and pushed Mustang back into a high-interest rate on being one of the tougher teams in the state this year.”
Because of that, the grinder mentality starts to form before the kids even reach the high school level. It has helped Picklo put together the type of squad that can compete with anyone.
“It’s a philosophy, a style that is not the most comfortable to adapt because it’s hard,” Picklo said. “You’ve got to wrestle hard all the time. As I’ve tried to develop that, I’ve got to battle the idea that maybe there’s a shortcut. That’s just something I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in shortcuts. It’s a challenge for me to educate kids to buy into it. Once they buy into it, they’re extremely successful. Once they start to see that success, once they feel that success, they say this is what coach is talking about.”
Mustang will be back in action this weekend when they head to Enid for the Mid-American Nationals. For Picklo, it’s another opportunity to see his Broncos get challenged.
“We’re at the Mid-American Nationals, which is going to be a really tough tournament,” Picklo said. “There will be teams from Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, including some of the best teams in Oklahoma. It’ll be a really good test for these guys.”