EL DORADO — Mitch Woods’ plan today and tomorrow at the CIF Wrestling Championships at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena isn’t to stress about what lies ahead at the state’s biggest tournament.
In fact, he sits at the spectrum’s other end … quite relaxed.
This weekend marks the end to Woods’ four-year varsity stint with Union Mine and the senior knows there’s no sense to look ahead. To him, worrying about who’s who on brackets and potential matchups doesn’t change a thing.
“The brackets are a formula and luck of the draw. I’ll take it one match at a time so I don’t get ahead of myself and overlook someone,” Woods said. “You have to win the first one to have any chance to place.”
While Woods hopes for a state medal, his world won’t end if it doesn’t happen because he knows his career isn’t over. Woods has targeted Duke, North Carolina, Cal Poly and the Coast Guard Academy at the very top of his list of where to wrestle next.
“Knowing I’ll end up wrestling in college relieves some of the pressure and means I’ll enjoy what’s ahead of me (this weekend) even more,” said Woods who went 1-2 last March in his first Rabobank appearance. “I’m pretty hungry (for a medal) and it would be sweet to place.”
He wraps smaller goals: winning the first match, making it to the second day and placing into his overall strategy to earn one of eight state medals issued for every weight class.
“No matter what happens Mitch will wrestle past high school,” Union Mine coach Tim Brown said. “He’s worked as hard as any kid I’ve seen and will have to wrestle his best (in Bakersfield) to make the podium.”
During the season, the 172-pound Diamondback wrestler has been ranked as high as fourth in the state. The four-time Master’s qualifier has a current record of 37-3 with a career high 27 pins.
A late reversal cost Woods last week’s Masters title after previously winning his first Sierra Valley Conference championship followed by the Division title. In both, Woods did not yield an offensive point.
Earlier this season, Woods placed second at the prestigious Sierra Nevada Classic. In his first three years at Union Mine, Woods went 144-44 with 69 pins, including a second-place finish as a sophomore at the state frosh/soph tournament.
He picked up the sport in middle school before connecting with the USA Wild Wrestling Club where he practiced and competed with four-time state medalist Cody Tow, Tow’s brother Sean who’ll join him in Bakersfield, and others.
“That’s been a big part of my career. I was in seventh grade when Cody first went to state and that really inspired me into thinking I could do that too,” Woods said.
Woods could also draw on dad Steve’s background as a high school wrestler who wrestled a year in college.
“My dad’s been there on the sideline ever since I started. Whether I’ve wrestled well or not he’s always had something helpful to say. All the traveling to the weekend tournaments was really good father-son bonding time,” said Woods who’s also grateful to D’back coaches Brown, Jaime Ocampo, Jay Aliff and with USA Wild coach Juan Oretga for all the help they’ve given.
“The coolest thing of high school was wrestling and the coaches are what made Union Mine wrestling,” Woods said “It’s a balanced program; we have a good time but we’re serious too.
“Wrestling is the hardest sport I’ve done. You have to cut weight — you’re starving but then you have to run four miles to drop a half pound before you wrestle. But it’s the most rewarding sport. You can’t half-ass the sport because it will show on the mat. You get out what you put in,” Woods added.
Don’t be fooled. While Woods’ is calm about what lies ahead, you can bet the D’back, in his words, will “get after it” later this morning when his name is called to the mat.