Scots Hope to Mold Youngsters on the Mat

Highland Park senior Connor Creek, center, listens to head coach Tim Marzuola during a recent workout. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
Highland Park Connor Creek, center, listens to coach Tim Marzuola during a recent workout. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

How can a wrestling team with two returning state champions be in rebuilding mode? Allow Highland Park head coach Tim Marzuola to explain.

“We’ve got a small core of really good kids, but our numbers are kind of thin right now,” Marzuola said. “We’ve got to build up the younger kids.”

His statement makes sense. During his prior tenure as HP coach from 1982 to 2007, Marzuola built the Scots into one of the state’s powerhouse programs starting in the late 1990s, including five UIL titles and eight state-dual titles during a 10-year span.

He retired, then moved to South Carolina for a few years and coached there, before returning to HP in 2013. Now he’s trying to get the Scots back to prominence.

Last year, when HP had two state champions for the first time since 2005, was a good start. And fortunately for the Scots, both Connor Creek and Stephen Dieb are back this season.

Creek won the state title last year in the 160-pound weight class, while Dieb took first place at 145 pounds. They will again form the core of a squad that generally lacks depth and experience but includes returnees Keegan Martin and Michael Thornton, who each made it to the state semifinals a year ago.

The current roster for the Scots has just four seniors along with several incoming freshmen that should help to boost the numbers, especially after football season is over. That’s when Dieb, Thornton, and others will be on the mat every day after school.

One of Marzuola’s strategies for building local interest in the sport is developing a solid program at the middle-school level, and he’s gained school board approval to launch that this winter. He also wants to restart a youth club program he ran previously, and said some clinics he ran last year were successful in that regard.

“We’re trying to put everything back together the way we had it before I left,” Marzuola said. “Once we get these things in place and once people hear about them, hopefully we can get back to being competitive year-in and year-out.”

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