STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School’s new wrestling coach Jordan Bonifas is teaching athletes how to wrestle “Iowa-style.”
Bonifas moved to Steamboat Springs two years ago from Iowa for a life in the mountains and worked as an assistant under head coach Travis Bryant last year. But now, he’s taking over.
“I’ve coached a little bit here and there,” Bonifas said. “It never was my life-long dream. I guess I just kind of fell into it. I’m looking forward to trying to bring out the potential that I know all the kids have and just having fun and working hard.”
Bonifas grew up in Nebraska but wrestled at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He hopes to incorporate the wrestling style he learned as a collegiate wrestler here in Steamboat Springs.
Nov. 30: vs. Battle Mountain, 5 p.m.
Dec. 4: at Coal Ridge, 5 p.m.
Dec. 8: at Vista Peak
Dec. 15: at West Grand
Jan. 5: at Eagle Valley
Jan. 10: at Eagle Valley, 5 p.m.
Jan. 12: at Evergreen, 7 a.m.
Jan. 19: at Rifle
Jan. 25: at Palisade, 5 p.m.
Feb. 2: at Valley
“The Iowa physicality is always something we’re trying to improve on,” Bonifas said. “Really pushing the base the whole six minutes of the match, wearing people down, being in better wrestling shape than your opponent and trying to break them.”
Steamboat Springs junior Tucker Havel says a lot of the training he does involves sprinting or exerting his body to the limit before taking 30 seconds to recover, just like in a wrestling match.
“So, you’re trying to get as much breath back as you can in a short amount of time,” Havel said.
Havel is one of two returning state qualifiers for Steamboat Springs. The other is junior John Slowey. His wrestling season doesn’t end after high school. He tries to stay on the mat from September through June, attending national tournaments in Denver and Farmington, New Mexico.
“You get to run into a bunch of different people from all over and see a bunch of different styles of wrestling and if someone locally brings it to your competition level.” Havel said.
Time on the mat is key to keeping technique fresh and crisp. Bonifas says the best way to get in wrestling shape is to wrestle.
Havel says that Bonifas brings an upbeat atmosphere to the high school team, but he also pushes them for the entire one and a half hours of practice.
As juniors, Havel and Slowey are the oldest on a young team with a new coach. With that, Havel says that his leadership role is key to showing the team what kind of work is needed to succeed.
“You’ve been in the program the longest,” Havel said. “People look up to you as they are coming into high school or as just a newcomer onto the team, so just try to set a good example, and work hard in practice.”
The team kicks off its season at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 at Steamboat Springs High School with a triangular meet against Battle Mountain and Summit.
Bonifas emphasized that he wants a strong presence from the home crowd to help the team roll into what he hopes is a long season of competition. Having a crowd is part of creating that Midwestern wrestling culture.
“I think we have a really young team,” Bonifas said. “But they’re really hard workers and really fun to watch.”