For Hermiston head wrestling coach Shaun Williams and the Bulldogs, winning might not be the most important idea, but it sure is a reoccurring one. Hermiston is the defending 5A state champion and has won six out of the last seven state championships.

Last season’s team had four state individual champions in Beau Gleed, Tyler Berger, Abraham Rodriguez and Sam Shields-Colbray with a total of seven state finalists. Williams said it will be difficult to replicate that performance.

“Obviously, it’s going to be tough to repeat what we did last year, but we have a lot of guys who will be competitive at the state level,” he said. “We won’t be very far off from last year.”

This year’s team will feature six state placers, four state finalists and a state champion from last year’s title-winning team.

Shields-Colbray, a sophomore, is the returning state champion for the Bulldogs, but Williams said his senior class should have some of his best wrestlers.

“Our senior class will be our biggest class,” Williams said. “We have a lot of guys who have been in the program and know what it takes. The depth is there to get it done again.”

Williams noted the freshmen from last year’s team will be ready to step up this season.

“They’ve got a year under their belts,” he said. “They’ve been working all spring and summer, as well. We are going to have a lot of young guys contribute. It’s exciting to see how these young guys have improved.”

Williams said he is extremely fortunate to have taken over a program with Hermiston’s pedigree.

“There’s the old saying, ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it,’ and I think that applies here, but at the same time, as a coach, you also bring a little bit of who you are to your team.” he said. “I have a certain philosophy on how wrestling should take place, and I’ve tried to share that. It’s about building on the past successes of the program.”

One of the areas Williams said he would like to see growth and improvement is in the youth wrestling community.

“I’d like to get more involvement with the younger-aged kids,” he said. “Hopefully, we’d be able to funnel them into a middle school program and then into our program here at the high school level. It’s an important aspect of building a program that has sustained success.”

Williams said, as coach, it’s his job to always be looking at the big picture.

“I’m not just coaching one kid,” he said. “I’m responsible for the program, as a whole. Sometimes you can’t make everyone happy, but as long as you make good decisions for the program and the community, people will be able to respect that.”

Hermiston is a wrestling community, as the state titles of the recent past indicate, and Williams said he is simply trying to maintain that enthusiasm.

“Success breeds success,” he said. “It’s more difficult to build a program than sustain it. The ground work has been laid, and I’m hoping to continue to grow it. Constantly improving our youth is one way we are going to accomplish that.”

Williams said it’s important for him to be involved at the youth level.

“One day I’ll be coaching those kids at the high school level,” he said. “It’s about building those relationships early. My experiences taught me that wrestling is an extremely personal sport. You retain young people by being involved with their development from the beginning.”

The Bulldogs officially start their state title defense when practice begins on Monday.

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