Arlee wrestler Danny Trujillo's dedication is paying off
By JON KASPER
of the Missoulian
Charlie Hanson needn't worry about his summer help slacking.
Hanson's ranch near Arlee is where Warrior senior wrestling Danny Trujillo has worked for the better part of five summers, pounding posts, running heavy equipment and completing all sorts of physically draining tasks.
"It's all for wrestling,'' Trujillo said. "Every day when I would change a line, I'd run to every pipe. When I was pounding a post, I wouldn't quit until it was done.
"You don't become a state champion just during the season. It's year round. You've got eat and sleep wrestling. Everything is wrestling.''
Trujillo's drive and determination took him to the top of the state Class
B-C wrestling world last February when he captured the 112-pound state title with an overtime victory over two-time state champion Cory Johnston of Glasgow. Trujillo, ranked No. 1 at 119 pounds, takes a 54-match winning streak into this week's Western B-C tournament in Florence.
"I try not to think about the streak, to tell the truth,'' Trujillo said. "If you let it get to your head, then it's going to mess it up. I just try to stay focused.''
Trujillo had no idea how many matches he'd won in a row, but has no such trouble remembering his last lost in MHSA competition. It was his sophomore year at state, when he was disqualified for illegally (and unintentionally) slamming a Frenchtown wrestler to the mat.
"I had to learn to control myself,'' said Trujillo, who lost at a national competition in Denver last summer where he took fifth. "I had to have some self-control and had to know what was going on on the mat. In my eyes you have to lose to know what it feels like to lose. It gives you a drive, and you can't be satisfied with losing. You work that much harder to win.''
Trujillo has tasted defeat just eight times and won 111 matches during his career at Arlee. His 93.2 winning percentage ranks first in school history.
Just as rewarding as the personal success is the team success the Warriors have achieved the last two seasons. Arlee, which nearly dropped wrestling in the late 1990s, is ranked third in the state and is the defending Western B-C champs.
Trujillo and the six other seniors - Ryan Smith, Jared Porter, Russell Ritter, Alex McCay, Aaron Santos and Crocket Hill - on Arlee's rosters envisioned this kind of success when they were in junior high.
"It's very uplifting to bring our wrestling team from nothing to one of the best in the state,'' Trujillo said. "It feels so good. We make each other. You have to have numbers to have a good team. We don't have that many kids in our school. We talk to everybody to get on the wrestling team. It's a community team.''
Arlee coach Ken Hill said Trujillo has made a major impact on the program with his ability to motivate the other wrestlers.
"He is a person who really wants to bring everyone around him up to the same level that he's at,'' Hill said. "He can take a mediocre wrestler in the practice room and bring him up to be an outstanding wrestler by what he says and how he acts. He has great enthusiasm for the sport.''
"We always push the team attitude,'' Hill added. "Our seniors are really pushing the juniors and sophomores and freshman to be better as far as weight control and attitude. Every senior out there feels the pain when one of the freshmen loses. The team knows how to keep track of team points. Every fan knows how to keep track of team points. That's what they cheer for, the team accomplishments.''
McCay, a 140-pounder, Smith, a 160-pounder, certainly figure to be in the running for a state title in two weeks, and the other seniors all have a shot at placing in the top six. McCay was a runner-up last season, while Smith placed fourth. Sophomores Cameron Lytle and John Ritter will also be in the hunt to place. Arlee won a Little Guy team title when the seniors were eighth-graders.
Trujillo called that title one of the best moments of his wresting career. Trujillo and the rest of the Warriors would love to cap their careers by winning the state title in Billings. Taking it all, however, will be an almost impossible feat. Defending state champion Conrad has steamrolled through the B-C ranks this season and is heavily favored to repeat as champs.
"Our goal is to get second,'' said Trujillo, who helped the Warriors to a third-place finish in 2003. "It's almost impossible for us to take first. Our goal is to beat everyone else (but Conrad)."
Trujillo, whose main strengths are his speed, aggressiveness and his mental approach, said his work ethic and enthusiasm were passed on from his father Joe, a volunteer assistant at Arlee who won a prep state title in Utah.
"He's been a big influence on me,'' Danny said. "He trained me to be my best - ff nothing else to do my best, and if you win or lose, it doesn't matter. If I wrestled my heart out, I'm still a winner. That's what I feel.''
Trujillo's, who helps out at his parent's Arlee restaurant A.J.'s and is an honor role student, is undecided if he'll pursue a collegiate wrestling career. Hill said the University of Oregon has expressed interest.
"I want to become an electrician or a heavy equipment operator,'' Trujillo said. "I don't want to leave. I don't want to go off and wrestle and be all alone. I really love wrestling and I want to do it so bad. I haven't made up my mind. I don't know.''
If Trujillo sticks around, he'll be able to watch his younger brother Jacob wrestle for the Warriors. Jacob is in the seventh grade and has placed second several times in state Little Guy competitions.
"He's going to be a stud,'' Danny said. "He's going to be the first four-time state champion in our family.''
Reporter Jon Kasper can be reached at 523-5247 or by e-mail at email@example.com