Finishing touches

Mountain Pointe senior Jacob Rasmussen has been the leader new coach Greg Dayoob needs in first year running the program.

Photo courtesy of MP wrestling/Leilani Fayne

Greg Dayoob took over the Mountain Pointe wrestling program with big plans in mind.

First on the list was to grow the numbers in the room. Check.

Then adjust the schedule to harden the wrestlers. Check.

Fundraising, pride and enthusiasm all had to be rebuilt from scratch. Check.

Forge relationship with feeder programs like Centennial Middle School. Check.

Changing the culture is a much harder and longer process. That plan is in progress.

Dayoob looks at the success of the football and baseball program and feels like the wrestling program can be a top 10 program annually. Wait and see.

Two months into the season, Dayoob knows it is going to take time to impart all of the changes needed in the program, but knows from experience it can be done at Mountain Pointe.

“Changing the culture of an athletic bring is like turning a big ship,” he said. “The rudder is going and you stay on it and you grind, but that ship is not going to just whip around. You just have to stay true to cause. We are getting to the point where the bad habits of the past are going away.”

He was the head coach for the Pride from 1999-2003, when the program had its best stretch, including qualifying as many as 10 wrestlers for state and producing the school’s only two state champions.

“As soon as I got back here, in this school, in this room, it was like I finally found what I was looking for again,” said Dayoob, who left the first time to take over the program at his alma mater Dobson. “It felt like home and that I was destined to come back here all along.”

Then there was a sign. Literally.

When he started moving things around in the office in the wrestling room, he couldn’t believe what was behind one of the posters on the wall.

It was a piece of paper with one of his favorite slogans—“Practitioners of the World’s Oldest Martial Art”—he had tacked up in the office in 1999.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Someone just put a poster over top of it. When I saw that it just cemented everything we are trying to do here and I figured it had to stay up. The kids said it was a good omen so leave it.”

It’s all pointing to a monumental shift for a program that many believed was a bit of a sleeping giant that has been through three coaches over the last five seasons.

Just how far the Pride has come in a short period is defined by a lot more than the results in competition, but the wrestlers will get some idea when they travel to rival Desert Vista High today for a dual meet.

“I live in the real world, and we are not going to beat Desert Vista this year,” he said. “Our goal is to go over there and really make a statement where this program is now compared to where it was the last few years. It has changed, the work ethic has changed. It’s a whole new standard. We are going to go after them, wrestle hard, compete and when we leave we will be respected for the way went about it.”

The results on the mat have been OK at the Red Mountain duals and Moon Valley Invite, but the biggest test is to come when the Pride heads to the Flowing Wells Invitational, the premier event in the state, in mid-January.

The Pride has made strides but most of the lineup won’t be ready for that level of competition just yet. Dayoob, who was an assistant at Corona del Sol before taking over the Pride this time around, is just fine with that for now.

“Truth of the matter is we will mostly be in street clothes on Saturday,” he said. “But when you see that level of wrestling and are exposed to it, it helps them understand what it means to be at that level and what it looks like.”

“If you go to mediocre tournaments then you get a false sense of what you are capable of,” he added.

The best candidates for Mountain Pointe to make an impression at Flowing Wells and/or state are seniors Jacob Rasmussen and Michael Waites and sophomore Keegan Arthur.

Rasmussen is 25-4 on the season with all of his defeats coming against opponents outside of the 6A Conference. He is considered one of the state title favorites, along with Corona del Sol’s Vincent Dolce, after finishing fifth at state last year.

He said he wishes he was an underclassman so he had a chance help turn the program around now that it has seemingly found a new positive direction.

“Everything is so much more organized and detailed,” he said. “We are working harder in practice and we are learning a lot, too. This program is going to be really good in a few years.”

That’s what Dayoob has laid out, along with a new design for the practice room, on the way to checking off entries on his big plans for the program.

“People don’t realize all it takes to run a program at a high level,” said Dayoob, who left coaching for awhile in pursuits outside of teaching. “It takes someone who is will to eat, sleep and breathes wrestling. It’s his baby; it’s his passion. That’s where I am at and this is what I do.

“Now, it is a matter of getting everyone else to think that way, and I really think this can be a great program, one that is on that short list of wrestling teams everyone knows.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

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