The Delta wrestling program’s culture was established in the mid-1980s when Robin Rayfield took over as coach, was put on display in the late 90s when their teams won state individual titles in three out of four seasons, and the legacy only grew under the now former head coach Anthony Carrizales who guided the program from 2011 through this past season.
Carrizales, an individual state champion himself at 130 pounds as a senior in 1998-99, wanted to bring back that winner’s mentality to the program. So after three years of serving as an assistant, he finally got the chance to lead the way starting with the 2011-12 campaign.
“When I was in high school, we were state champions as a team three out of the four years and my sophomore year we were second. We had a really, really good run when I was in high school,” said Carrizales on his vision for the program when he took over. “I remember feeling like we had kind of slid into a mentality where making the state tournament was an accomplishment. And of course it is, and I’m happy for every kid that makes it. But, I’ve always said, ‘hey you know what, if you can make it to a tournament you should place. And you should be contributing and putting points on the board for a team effort.’”
He wanted championships to become more of a priority and, in particular, team championships.
“If we’re good enough to bring some hardware home, then we’re good enough to win it. So let’s chase that gold (state championship) trophy,” he said.
They were able to capture many championships under his watch. The Panthers won Division III state individual titles as a team in 2014 and 2016, were runner-up in 2013 and 2015, and third in 2012.
What’s more, they won the first four D-III state team titles from 2013-16; along with Northwest Ohio Athletic League championships in 2013, 2014 and 2016. And, roughly 12 individual state champions were crowned during Carrizales’ span as coach.
His goal for the program was always to go above and beyond, and looking back on the results, it is obvious he was able to accomplish that.
“Not just winning, but overachieving,” Carrizales said of the culture he wanted to create. “Obviously, I understand the reality of talent. Some kids aren’t good enough to be state champs. (Because of) their athletic ability. Whatever the deal is, but you know, if I can take a kid and make them reach their goals and beyond, then that’s what I wanted to do. That environment of just improvement and overachieving, and outworking sometimes what we think we can do.”
Rayfield, Anthony’s coach in high school who oversaw four state championship teams himself, got to witness firsthand Carrizales’ resurrection of the program. Despite retiring as head coach in the early 2000s, Rayfield has never stopped helping with the program.
He has been impressed with the job his former pupil has done in getting Delta wrestling back on the right track.
“He set a standard. This is what we’re going to accomplish, and we’re all gonna work the same way. And everyone has to perform. He was good at getting each kid to reach their potential. All the kids don’t come in with the same god-given talents. He was able to determine and help each kid get to his level. You don’t always see that,” said Rayfield of Carrizales.
Rayfield was not shy when asked how he thought Carrizales’ tenure compared to his. “I’d say it’s better,” he said with a chuckle.
He has immense pride with what Anthony was able to achieve as coach.
“When Anthony came in and won all those championships…winning one it’s not easy, but winning the first one is much easier than the ones that follow it,” Rayfield explained. “It’s really hard to put a group together to win three or four (state titles). You just look and teams don’t do that. You work, and work, and work, you get a championship and then you kind of fall off for a little bit. But Anthony was able to keep us up there.”
The two have known each other since long before Anthony’s high school wrestling days — or his time as coach for that matter.
Carrizales grew up around the program, with his dad being involved with the Delta Wrestling Club when Anthony was in elementary school. His dad and uncle both wrestled for Delta, and they convinced their sons — Anthony and Danny — to take up the sport as well.
Anthony’s first experience with wrestling on the big stage was in 1989, when he was in attendance with his dad to see Delta capture its first state team title.
Little did he know he would be a part of Delta’s next three team titles. According to his coach, Carrizales was certainly a key piece to those teams.
“When Anthony wrestled at Delta, he was without a doubt one of our top kids that ever came through Delta. We’ve been blessed with a lot of good ones. Anthony has crazy work ethic. He always outworked everybody in the room. No matter who. There may have been kids that had, let’s say more talent, but nowhere near the capacity to work the way he did. And, that’s kind of how he coached as well,” stated Rayfield.
Carrizales will be able to take with him forever the memories made and lifelong bonds forged through Delta wrestling.
“It’s a family affair,” he said on what the program and wrestling means to him. “The community that I grew up in, it was something that, all of my best friends — for the most part — were wrestlers. It’s something that was pretty defining for me in high school; it was defining for me from the time I was little like within my family. And even now, when I look at a lot of the people that I’ve remained close with, good friendships, it would be people through Delta wrestling.”
One of his more memorable moments as coach came early in his tenure as he helped Luke Kern reach his goal of a state title in 2012. Plus, it was made sweeter by the fact he was able to share the moment with his cousin Danny — who served as one of Anthony’s assistants.
“The reasoning behind that is the fact that he was a kid, he moved from Liberty Center, and he committed to saying I’m gonna trust in Delta — the coaching staff, he put his trust in me. I worked with that kid a lot,” Carrizales said on why that moment stands out above the others. “And just the dramatic finish, the come-from-behind win that he had in the state finals. Doing it, coaching with my cousin Danny next to me, it was pretty awesome.”
He also holds dear in 2016 when the Panthers had four state champions: Drew Mattin (120), Jake Spiess (132), Dustin Marteney (138), and Jesse Beverly (152).
“That was obviously something I was really, really proud of,” noted Carrizales.
Delta registered four state placers, one of whom was a state champion, and took third as a team at the Division III State Tournament in March, allowing Carrizales to end his coaching career on a high note.
As to how he will spend his free time now that he will no longer be coaching, Carrizales hopes to do more things with his church, as well as spend more time with his family.
“I‘ve got my four kids. They are 10, 9, 6 and 3. It’s just kind of one of those things where right now, I’m looking at it as, they are at the age where me being around more is gonna be beneficial to them,” he said. “I feel like I was in a sweet spot this past year in the sense that I was real proud that we ended the season as a team with a third place finish. And Austin Kohlhofer winning a state title.”
The program will now be turned over to Mark Nagel. But, will also still have a Carrizales’ presence, as Anthony’s younger cousin Sam is likely to remain on staff.
Thanks in large part to what Anthony was able to do in restoring the culture, Delta wrestling should be primed for success for the foreseeable future.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010