Coach Malouf Is Changing the Face of Wrestling at Don Lugo

A+clip+of+former+wrestler+Will+Young+at+a+2021+wrestling+tournament+hosted+at+Ruben+S.+Ayala+High+school.

David Fender

A clip of former wrestler Will Young at a 2021 wrestling tournament hosted at Ruben S. Ayala High school.

Brooke Graves, Features Editor

Wrestling is a sport in which each individual not only competes for themselves, but they compete for their team. Defined by two competitors each trying to tackle the other to the mat using swift moves with big hopes for a quick take down, wrestling dates back to the Sumerians about 5000 years ago but for Grant Malouf, his wrestling dreams all started in middle school. Grant Malouf, co-coach of the Don Lugo Wrestling team started his wrestling career at around age 12 in middle school playing for a club team – The Hawks, finding such a passion that it would take an active role throughout his life. “I’ve been around the sport since I was in high school, basically either as a competitor, a coach or an official,” quotes Malouf.
Although he started wrestling with his club team in middle school, once he came to high school he played for their team, meeting one of his largest wrestling influences, his high school coach. He even got the chance to teach with him about six or seven years ago down at Tufts, noting it as a significant experience. Continuing into college Malouf continued to play, coach and officiate up until he came to Lugo. Being offered an opportunity by Coach Donoho personally to come and coach, he then started his new journey coaching the Don Lugo wrestling team.
In a time where being together was forbidden, coming back off of COVID-19 was a hard transition for students and even more for teams. Although Malouf started coaching after COVID, veterans on the team noted how difficult it was to come back with the hardships of losing their season still looming. “COVID cut my season short, it didn’t really allow me to get any games in, or any work in,” quotes Brandon Gomez.
Originally a two week wait, COVID-19 protocols quickly turned into a year, greatly changing the way sports ran, especially high contact sports such as wrestling. According to the CDC, in October of 2020, one county tried to hold tournaments with specific guidelines such as mask wearing, constant disinfection of the space and equipment and social distancing while not actively wrestling. Even while careful this event alone found the community in the highest category of transmission of COVID-19, with 7.7% of their COVID tests coming back positive. Results like these kept students at home and athletes out of the gym, especially for school sports. However, Coach Malouf paired with Coach Poteet tackled this challenge head on, not letting his first year post-COVID at Lugo go to waste. Ending an extraordinary year, the team ended up going three and two in league, barely missing CIF as a team, and additionally taking seven individuals to CIF.
Malouf recounts that he started from scratch, using the basics but not taking too much time in order to prepare his wrestlers for varsity caliber tournaments only within a couple of months. Being new into the program paired with his partner Coach Poteet allowed potential and growth for the program as a whole. “Since Coach Poteet and I were both new to the program, it was good to start everybody on the same page. And so we all have the same goals and really the same skills and knowledge as one another. Everybody’s on the same page. So I think it was actually a positive thing,” Malouf states.
Pairing his skills and experience with the experience of Coach Poteet, Malouf is able to cater to the vast skill levels and wrestlers that are apart of his team. Identified by wrestler Eli Fernandez as a serious technical coach, Malouf has the experience and advancement to be able to show his wrestlers important moves, with key knowledge helping smaller wrestlers succeed. Technique and attention to detail were important last season as entering in, not only did the wrestling team have new coaches, they were almost an entirely new team with only about two to three returning wrestlers. Now with the team being made of primarily returning players, Malouf is calling this season a growth season.
“We started working earlier in the off season. We’ve been conditioning, hitting the weight room more and started doing a couple of practices much earlier than we did last year. So we’re trying to get in shape so we’re ready right when the season starts, trying to hit the ground running,” Malouf explains. Setting high goals and expectations of making it to CIF is a common idea shared by the coaches and wrestlers when asked. Listing Montclair as a big opponent to look out for, Malouf plans to polish the team as with simple improvements beating that team will be a breeze.
Creating an unstoppable duo with co-coach Poteet, Malouf inspires his wrestlers, guides their journey and was able to successfully persevere through a time of unknowns. Carrying on the coaching legacy passed down to him, Malouf continues to push his wrestlers to be the best and continue on in the sport. When asked about the impact Malouf has had on him Eli Fernandez concludes, “[He’s always] just telling me the possibilities I could have with wrestling. Just support overall. Like at matches he is always, always in my corner.” Following, Brandon Gomez quotes, “Coming back from COVID, Coach Malouf being our coach was a good thing for us because we were all behind due to COVID and starting in my junior year, him coming in allowed us to progress knowing that other teams were ahead of us within the season and [he] pushes us out of our comfort zone…”
Grant Malouf following a lifetime of wrestling has brought his talents to Lugo, changing our team as a whole. In the wake of COVID, he took on the team with co-coach Poteet in order to bring the team to victory. Rebuilding and growing the team by teaching the basics allowed not only newcomers to build experience but it also allowed veterans to polish off their skills. Following a victorious first season, the future of Don Lugo wrestling is heading on a bright path this season.