November 23, 2005 - Five years ago, the Marana High School wrestling team had fallen on hard times. Participation crawled to an all-time low; a lack of coaching drove a once prominent program into near oblivion.
In stepped Rob Lindsay, a brick wall of a man with the mustache, build and machismo of Yosemite Sam. In other words, the right man to clean up an ugly situation.
Rob Lindsay enters his fifth year as head coach of the Tigers and changes are starting to take shape in Marana. In the years since the dynamic Lindsay took over the program, wrestlers have slowly returned and with them a new era of hope in Marana wrestling has been born.
Raised in the fertile wrestling land of Western Pennsylvania and groomed at Hempfield High School in the Keystone State before heading to Arizona.
Lindsay took over a Marana program that featured a dozen kids in the 2001-02 season. Five years later the program is now 30 strong. Adding to the 20 wrestlers from last year's team is a crop of 10 freshman, many of whom figure to play prominent roles for the Tigers in the years to come.
"This will be the year, we call it the identity year," said a sweat-soaked Lindsay inside the humid wrestling room at Marana High School. "It's the year that everybody says, 'Oh, Lindsay's doing something in Marana.'"
Seniors Chris and Larry Esparza, Mitch Baker and Ryan Belding will lead this year's squad, which looks to improve upon its 21st place showing at the state meet last winter.
An ardent student of the sport, Lindsay's numbers crunching has the coach believing his squad can finish in the top five in the state this year. Under his guidance, the program is considered among the favorites in this year's Class 4A Sonoran Region with stiff competition expected from Pueblo and Ironwood Ridge high schools.
If his predictions hold true, roughly seven or eight school records should fall this season.
The key to Lindsay's enrollment success is the recruiting. If there's a wrestling event going on somewhere in the state, chances are the stocky, handlebar-mustached coach is there.
Lindsay has been working close with Marana Middle School physical education teacher and wrestling coach Raul Samorano to develop the younger kids. Last year's middle school squad featured 40 wrestlers. Samorano's seventh period gym class is a wrestling class with 15 students. Twice a week, Lindsay will pop into the class and teach a wrestling move or two.
With Mountain View High School's head coach Bob Newman likely to retire within the next few years, and the further advancement of Marana's program, wrestlers in the district may think twice in choosing which school to compete for, said Lindsay.
Historically, not too many kids make the leap from Tortolita Middle School to Marana High School. This year, however, the Tigers landed Torolita's Trevor Bourguet, a freshman who Lindsay says could be among the program's best when his four years are up.
Wrestlers such as Bourguet, who are dedicated to the sport and making themselves better, flourish under Lindsay. Outside of the high school and middle school seasons, Lindsay and a convoy of kids all ages traverse the state and country, heading to championship tournaments in Las Vegas and Iowa to name a few.
It's common for the coach to join in the action. Last year he wrestled in the 211-pound weight class in the Veteran's Freestyle National Champions in Las Vegas. In the future, once his knee fully recovers from an ACL injury suffered in June, Lindsay is considering a shot at the World Championships.
But that's not on the forefront of Lindsay's mind these days. Slowly he is re-building Marana wrestling, which means a new look at the wrestling room. In an attempt to restore some history to the program, he has added trophy cases, walls of pictures of past teams and a record board.
"Every year we're making adjustments and fixing things," said Lindsay.
Change is inevitable and for the Marana High School wrestling program change is for the best.