ROCK SPRINGS — Earlier this week the first NJCAA Wrestling rankings of the season were released. The Western Wyoming Community College Mustangs were ranked second in the nation.
Each month new national rankings are revealed for NJCAA Wrestling. These team rankings are based upon individual rankings. Each wrestler is assigned a certain number of points which is then compiled into a team total to create the rankings.
The first rankings act as a pre-season ranking which is based upon who is returning to the team and who the Mustangs have recruited for the 2018-19 season.
WWCC’s second place ranking can partly be attributed to the success the team had in 2017-18. Last season the Mustangs finished fourth in the country and featured former National Champion and NJCAA Wrestler of the Year, Ken Astle.
A core group from last year’s team returns this season which includes two Regional Champions, one Regional Qualifier and two All-Americans.
Building a Strong Foundation
Coach Art Castillo has been with the Mustangs’ program for 10 years. Castillo has founded WWCC’s program upon three priorities of success: being a good person, academics and wrestling.
“Our goal is to win the national title,” Castillo said. “First and foremost we need to be the best person we can be.”
The Mustangs don’t only talk about the value of being a good person but the team puts it into action. Community service is one of the ways that Castillo and his squad develop the mentality of putting others first.
“We learn what it’s like to put others first. We lay that foundation. It’s our expectation to be a good person,” Castillo said.
Another pillar that Castillo has built the program on is a heavy focus on academics. The athletic department of Western requires student-athletes at least five hours a week of study hall. Castillo said that the team not only does the required five hours, but that they have a mandate to do 10 hours a week.
“We really put an emphasis on that (academics). Daily we talk about being a good person and going to study hall every day,” Castillo said.
The last part of Castillo’s program is ironically the wrestling part of it all.
“Looking at how we’ve done the last few years and our national rankings you’d think it would be the other way around. The wrestling aspect is something that fits into those other things in their life and that’s really what we’re trying to teach them,” Castillo said.
Castillo’s philosophy seems to be working as Western has year in and year out been one of the best in the country. Through his experiences as a wrestler and a coach, he believes that these three priorities are right thing to do.
“It does take more work, but truly it’s easier to operate this way,” Castillo said. “We’re finally a well-oiled machine and now it feels like we are just getting started.”
If there’s one thing that can be learned from Castillo and his wrestlers, it’s that being organized and setting goals are a powerful force.