Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 | 6:25 p.m.
Roaming around the mats of the Coronado wrestling room in athletic gear, Matt Nishimoto's slight build allows him to blend in easily with the Cougars' varsity squad.
But he isn't the team's newest 145-pounder. Rather, the 25-year-old music teacher is Coronado's new coach.
When long-time coach Bob Clements stepped down at the end of last season, the school scrambled to find a replacement. In mid-September, with the first day of practice approaching and teams already scheduling tournament appearances, the Cougars were still coachless until Nishimoto was handed the reigns.
A wrestler for three years at Palo Verde, this is Nishimoto's first attempt at coaching.
"It's been nice to see the coach and wrestler relationship from the other side," Nishimoto said. "It's been so long since I was on the mat I had to basically relearn everything so I could teach it. It's been weird and interesting but enjoyable."
Nishimoto has mainly worked with junior varsity wrestlers as he re-familiarizes himself with the sport. Assistant coach Rich Suey, now in his sixth year with the program, handles the more advanced wrestlers.
"Matt's been fantastic so far," Suey said. "He's very motivated and the kids respond well to him. Early in the season we were still getting adjusted, but now it's worked out well. He's done a great job helping the JV kids with their fundamentals."
Senior Calvin Parrington (152 pounds) said the transition between coaches has been smooth and was aided by Suey staying with the team.
"Coach Clements was real experienced where coach Nishimoto is still learning, but he's out here on the mats with us every day," Parrington said. "He'll demonstrate stuff and let you practice on him. It's pretty cool. I think he's helped out the younger kids a lot."
The Cougars have a young team, but Nishimoto said Parrington as well as 130-pound junior Adrian Alfaro will be competitive in the postseason.
"We're actually a little further along as a team than we expected," the coach said. "We're working some JV kids into our bigger meets and we have some kids doing pretty well. I'm excited to see how they do in the postseason."
Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.