New Amador High School wrestling coach Frank Orlando is tapping into the program’s roots to try and bring the sport back to life on campus.
Orlando, who has a long history as a wrestling coach highlighted by a state championship in 1988 at Antioch High School, offered to take over the Amador High School wrestling program earlier this year when nobody applied for the vacant head coaching position.
“There was a sense of urgency and I didn’t want to see them drop the program,” said Orlando, who was an assistant coach in the program last year.
Once Orlando officially had the job, he started pounding the pavement for coaches and struck it big with a pair of former Amador wrestlers he hopes can give the program the spark it needs.
Austin Clymer wrestled at Amador High School from 2001 to 2004, winning individual Mother Lode League championships in 2002 and 2003 and qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships in 2003 and 2004. Clymer was a captain on the 2004 team that won the MLL team championship, Amador’s first league title since 1977 and its last.
After high school, Clymer went on to wrestle at Sierra College in Rocklin. He eventually got into coaching and was the Amador head coach from 2006 to 2010, coaching three individual MLL champions in that span. From 2014 to 2016, he was an assistant wrestling coach at Napa High School.
“Coming back to Amador, I’m eager to improve the wrestling in the area and help any way I can,” Clymer said.
Like Clymer, Rollie Fillmore was a two-time league champion at Amador High School, winning individual MLL gold in 2001 and 2002. A four-year wrestler at Amador High, he went on to wrestle in junior college before eventually getting into coaching.
Orlando is excited about having two former MLL champions teaching in the Amador wrestling room.
“We are very fortunate to get Austin and Rollie, two ex-stud wrestlers, who are big-time names in Amador County wrestling. These two young guys are committed to the program and will be around for a long time. I see them as the future.”
After assembling a staff that includes himself, Clymer, Fillmore and Ben Ibarra, another former high school wrestler and coach, Orlando’s next move is to build up the number of athletes coming out for wrestling.
In recent years, Amador has not had enough wrestlers to be able to compete in league dual meets and Orlando would like to see that change, although he knows it won’t happen overnight.
“I would like to have 25 to 30 kids in the program,” Orlando said. “My goal for this year it to be able to put a frosh/soph team on mat for league meets and build on that. Then in two years, those kids can compete in dual meets at the varsity level and then hopefully, we can field full varsity and JV teams in 3-4 years.”
One important step in building the high school program back up at Amador is finding a way to keep youth wrestlers active all the way up to high school. Orlando hopes that building a middle school program can help bridge the gap between the youth program and the high school program.
“Kids are losing interest and dropping out by the time they get to high school,” Orlando said.
Amador is not alone in its struggles to field a full wrestling team. In the MLL, only Calaveras and Sonora were able to field full lineups for team dual meets last season. Even at Antioch High School, where Orlando coached a state championship team in 1988, numbers dropped to the point that the school considered dropping its program about 5 years ago.
“With the establishment of girls wrestling and the popularity of mixed martial arts, you would think it would be a shot in the arm, but the sport is dying,” Orlando said. “Very few colleges even offer it as an option anymore and there is a list of reasons for that, but the biggest one is that kids just aren’t interested.
“No question, wrestling is a sport that requires discipline and attention, but it teaches you how to be a hard worker, how to focus. Nothing is given to you, you have to work hard for everything. I did football and track too, but I really believe wrestling just teaches a little more character … and kids come out of it in great condition. For multi-sport athletes, it’s going to help them in other sports.”
The high school wrestling season officially starts in November. Anyone interested in finding out more information about the Amador High School wrestling program or any of the feeder programs for younger wrestlers can call Frank Orlando at 790-9139.