• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Barrios says, “It’s something you’re born with. You have to have that fighting spirit that not everyone has. It’s one of those sports that’s in the blood; once you’ve wrestled, it’s a lifestyle, a mentality. The majority of our sport is mental — put in the work and push yourself. You might not have all the physical attributes of being quick or strong, but having the mental aptitude to push yourself, train yourself, that’s the most important. Poway has built a culture of success. Coach Branstetter has been hard at work for the past 30-whatever years. He set up a program with the fundamentals of hard work and dedication. He lives that, and he gets them to buy into that.”

Barrios wishes more kids would give wrestling a whirl. “It’s a chess match. It’s super-exciting out there.” But he admits that it’s not for everyone. “Some kids just don’t like getting smacked in the face.” He notes, “Wrestling is one of those fringe sports. Kids don’t typically watch it on TV, there’s no Pop Warner or Little League wrestling. The majority of the good athletes are in other sports. We get the misfits and rejects from other sports. We’d go out — all the wrestlers — in our PE class at Poway High School and play softball. Half the kids there are CIF champions or state placers, but they could hardly throw or catch a softball.

“Being a wrestler is unlike being any other kind of athlete; it’s a combative sport. There’s so much more that goes into it. You’re taking abuse on a daily basis. To ask a high-school kid to manage his weight and eat a proper diet, that’s a thing that not a lot of kids are capable of doing. It takes a lot of discipline. You want to get at your fighting weight, just like a boxer. You want to be at 7 percent body fat [the lowest percentage permitted], you want to have a six-pack, be in tip-top shape — and they’ve never had to do that before. You have to eat right, train your body right. In football, you just put the weights on the bench [press], eat whatever you want, go to practice, run wind sprints. But in wrestling, everything you do is gonna affect your performance. Are you sleeping enough?”

Titans rolling up the mats for a match

“Fringe sport” or not, wrestling is front and center on the Titan campus. “At Poway High,” says Barrios, “with the culture of wrestling in the community, people understand what wrestling is about. Every Poway boy has wrestled at some point. Coach Branstetter has a wrestling unit in freshman PE — it’s one of the first things they do — so they’ve all been exposed. They’ve experienced it, so there’s a different level of respect. He teaches them the game of wrestling.” Barrios subscribes to a theory bordering on the inchoate. “There are good, supportive families there with an ingrained work ethic. There’s ‘community.’” Quoting Poway Chamber of Commerce lingo, he says, “It’s a ‘city in the country’…its own little world out there. People have a lot of pride. Hard work is around — it’s the norm. It takes a lot to own a home and live in Poway. Success spills over into wrestling. But it’s not just wrestling. A lot of Poway High sports programs are always at the top.” He also admits that the burg’s affluence “definitely helps.”

Notwithstanding the near-freakish records racked up by Titan wrestlers over the decades, Coach Branstetter’s acolytes are quick to direct attention to his off-the-mat influence. Paul Baird says, “You quickly come to realize that, in the Poway wrestling program, there’s so much more taught than just wrestling…and I think it’s a unique situation, because you’ll find kids who’ve [spent] four years in the program who never wrestled on the varsity ‘A’ team. But they stick around. Why? Because of everything that’s taught on a daily basis in a wrestling room, specifically by Coach. He has a unique ability to relate to kids that are from a completely different generation: ‘You and [me] — let’s link arms and be great together in the sport of wrestling.’ And when you’re done wrestling, the things you’ve learned on a wrestling mat, those are things that are gonna stick with you the rest of your life.”

Former Titan grapplers like Brody Barrios stress the grueling nature of the sport. “It’s like running a six-minute mile with someone trying to hit you on the head and choke you the whole time.”

Barrios says, “Wrestling is really, really tough. If you haven’t done it, haven’t experienced it, haven’t done it in a daily grind, you don’t know. You can run cross-country and feel the pain, you can do water polo and feel the pain — but try running cross-country with a guy on your back who’s trying to slam you to the ground. There’s somebody tweaking you, someone trying to rip your arm out of its socket, twisting you….the mechanics of avoiding that — and then having the stamina to keep on fighting, surviving, getting him off you. Most people that I’ve talked to have had at some time in life a wrestling experience, and they’ve never forgotten it. I’ll never forget the time Coach had us wrestle, and I thought I could handle this kid, and I crawled out of that room puking. Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”

So wrestlers are tough guys — but are good wrestlers usually successful in other sports?

“Some,” says Branstetter. However, he also says that the kid with a four-inch vertical leap, no foot speed, and an abject inability to hit a curveball or a golf ball can still be a good, even great, high-school wrestler. “They come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. That’s the beauty of the sport. You have 14 weight classes — 106 all the way to 285.”

Notwithstanding the genuine, heartfelt accolades from alums and boosters, a few rival coaches claim that Poway’s “Titanic” success isn’t solely the product of superior coaching.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


stupidflanders19 Feb. 29, 2012 @ 4:52 p.m.

Victor Richmond is a jealous little man. Poway High's C team can wipe the mat with Mt Miguel's A team and has been doing it for 30 years. I bet the 8th grade wrestling team at Twin Peaks middle school in Poway would give them a run. If you can't win by trying, then start crying. Loser


Oldwrestler March 2, 2012 @ 5:58 a.m.

I have to say, that I loved the article. I know Coach B very well, in fact I was a member of his very first team that he ever coached in '73-'74 at Channel Islands HS in Oxnard, Ca. I wasn't the best by any means, but I greatly improved with him as our coach. He taught us life lessons, although we did not know it then. I graduated the following year, '75 and went on to join the Navy and wrestled and officiated for several years while on active duty. After retiring, I got into coaching our local HS and Middle School's teams until retiring in '05. I still stay in touch with Coach and his wife as well as several other old team mates. If anyone ever accused him of any wrong doing, just does not know him as well as those of us who have had the great pleasure of being on the mat with him. When he does retire, I will be there. With the Greatest Respect, William Moore, Monmouth, Maine aka: Oldwrestler


Greco_Star March 2, 2012 @ 11:29 a.m.

It never gets old but Poway has a reputation of being Cry Babies. For Example: When I used to help coach Fallbrook after coming from one of the powerhouses back East, we had a great 215 pounder who was called the "Experiment" that was wrestling in a tournamnet that included Poway. During the seeding process, All of the Poway coaches were trying to get their kid in a better seeding by knocking our guy down in the brackets. The Head coach and I just sat there smiling, we did not care where our kids were seeded because if you were "Truely" the best then who cares whether you are seeded or not? The Asst coaches were yelling to get our guy to be seeded lower. I stood up and said to each and everyone of them in a low whisper, "See you in an open tournament, may God have no mercy on you, cause I will not" I not only whipped one but two of the Asst coaches in one tournament, The Head coach "B" would not even look at my direction. Ask anyone up North about Poway and just see them shake their heads.


1happyguy March 4, 2012 @ 1:12 p.m.

I am not sure your point has to do with 'cry babies" Congratulations on winning the matches, but coaches should be advocates for their players. I am sure what you said is correct, but is pointless. I didnt go to Poway, and I live in North County, I dont shake my head. I am actually proud that someone in SD challenges Bakersfield and Clovis. I am actually happy that parents raise money, and get their kids involved early in wrestling. I personally know it takes some hard work and dedication to build a program like that, and it is obvious everyone else is struggling to do it, and crying because they cant.


1happyguy March 4, 2012 @ 1:08 p.m.

What a great article. I wish more kids thought of wrestling as a sport option. I applaud Poway for building such a dynamic program. In fact, most other coaches should also applaud and wish they had a program like this, so it would help evolve the sport. Additionally, I am sure there is some truth to some of the coaches complaints, but 99% is probably just jealousy. This is sad because they are suppose to be coaches, leaders, mentors, and role models for our kids. I think some of those coaches mentioned, shouldnt be coaches. Great Job Poway and Wayne...Sounds like you deserve all of the success you are earning!


jdboone March 6, 2012 @ 9:16 a.m.

pretty tough to name a state champ that wasn't home grown and made his way up the ranks starting in Slammers


SILVERBACKSWRESTLING March 28, 2012 @ 11:26 a.m.

I believe in the Homegrown Phenomenon... especially, when my teammates and I from 96-99 were fierce rivals with Calvary Chapel and hated them for recruiting...Why would we do the same? In fact we made it our Poway Slogan in 99 "Poway Homegrown," because of the ridiculous recruiting by teams like Calvary, St. Edwards, Blair Academy (all were private schools and could recruit). On the other hand, we (Poway Wrestlers) with the exception of Brody Barrios and Andy Kim did not start wrestling until Jr. High or as Freshman. As an 8th Grader, I didnt know a single thing about wrestling moves, other than what I saw from WWF. I was devastated being cut from the basketball team at Twin Peaks for not making sprints, and also for being a little uncoordinated and clumsy. Nonetheless, a friend of mine urged me to join the wrestling team @ 8th Grade. Mr. Barrios and the Factors thought me the bear hug, and then I fell in love with wrestling from there on. I HATED the sprints at first, but I knew it was necessary to last long in a match. This was the first step on building "Mental Toughness." I wanted to move like Muhammad Ali! I told coach, "I want to learn how to shoot," and my sophomore year, Coach brought in alumni Chad Totina, the "littlest heavyweight" I ever met. However, he thought me the John Smith Low Single and Coach Barrios thought me the Japanese Wizer... for a long time this was my main "TOOLS IN THE BOX." Coach Branstetter provides you, "TOOLS FOR SUCCESS" and everyday a wrestler practices moves and uses these tools to get advantage over one's opponent. "Like in any PROJECT, a guy needs the proper tools to finish the job... use the moves we teach you and put it on your box... eventually, you'll have all the tools you need to be successful at any project." (Coach Alan Toretto, Fall 96). Coach Branstetter and the Poway wrestling staff handed me tools to use in winning my STATE CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS MATCH in '99... by my Senior I was one of the most agile HWTs in the country, but I would have never reached my goals if it wasn't for the Sprints, the Long Distance Runs, Muhammad Ali, Coach Branstetter, and POWAY WRESTLING.


SILVERBACKSWRESTLING March 28, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

These days, I am building my own wrestling program at Ridgeview HS in Bakersfield Area with the principles that I have observed from the Poway Wrestling Program... building a youth program and a high school program together. (HOMEGROWN). What I have learned from Poway is that you always need to surround yourself with good people, have an extreme amount of patience, dedicate your time, and if you don't know the answer, communicate, and seek for proper solutions. With rival team POWERHOUSE Bakersfield HS, I could easily have "sour grapes" like other San Diego coaches complaining about Coach Branstetter's transfers, but I believe in Coach B's principle of not worrying what others are doing, and that you can only control what you yourself can accomplish or is currently doing... success will likely be achieved as long you stick with it and follow through. Dedications and Follow Through is the backbone of the his concept "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions" The most successful men and women usually knows what it takes to reach their goals. Coach Branstetter has always strive every year to reach his season goals for his team and his athletes. I suggest for those other coaches complaining about the Poway Program, "focus more on their own program, stop whining, focus more on winning, or perhaps learning and modeling from what Coach Branstetter instills in his program. Like the saying from "Field of Dreams." BUILD IT and THEY WILL COME... whether it's from HOMEGROWN or people moving and transferring to be part of something GREAT!


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!