THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For Taryn Christiansen the excuses he could make for giving up wrestling are like so many low-hanging apples on a tree. There are so many of them and they’re so easy to pick and four apples are especially juicy.
Who wants to drive 100 miles — in one direction — just to practice wrestling for a couple of hours?
Who wants to wrestle a man of 31 — 14 years older by the way — just to get better?
What teenager wants to make those commitments for a sport than never makes ESPN unless it’s the Olympics?
What teenager passes on dates and video games and root beer floats and big, fat cheeseburgers and slouching on the couch with the remote control for the unyielding demand wrestling asks?
Taryn Christiansen, that’s who. While many athletes speak of “commitment” as if it’s a lifestyle when we really know it’s a cliché they never employ, Christiansen lives the word. He IS the word. It is the best compliment to give him, carrying more weight than Christiansen being a two-time SCL wrestling champ, more impressive than Christiansen being named to California’s USA National Wrestling Team this past summer. His independence fuels that dedication.
“You’re out there, on your own, alone,” the El Molino senior said Wednesday. “It’s all on you.”
Christiansen, 17, likes that, not pointing fingers. And he will go to any lengths to be his own man on the mat, in wrestling emporiums in places like San Mateo, Concord, San Francisco, San Jose — places just to practice his craft. Remember that key word: “practice.” Christiansen and his father, Bob, will drive to those places to train against premium competition, such as former two-time NCAA champion Travis Lee in San Francisco. Now a mechanical engineer, Lee wrestled for Cornell in the 125-pound weight class. Christiansen, at 195 pounds, will go to Lee, eagerly, to learn technique, how to get faster, how to react quicker, how to learn every trick and strategy an NCAA champion can teach him.
Christiansen will go to Scott Spratt, eagerly as well, to train with SRJC’s assistant wrestling coach. Spratt was an NBL champion, a North Coast Section medalist for Rancho Cotate. He is in SRJC’s Wrestling Hall of Fame. Spratt is also 31, a father of two and now a clinical lab assistant at Marin General Hospital.
“When I first wrestled Taryn three years ago,” Spratt said, “I took it easy on him. I don’t get a chance to mess around with him anymore.”
Why would Christiansen go to such distances, against grown men, just to practice? Because, sadly, El Molino is a bit short on wrestlers. With declining enrollment at the school, Christiansen doesn’t have anyone close to his weight class to wrestle. Of course, that also could be another excuse to pick from the apple tree.
“When Taryn first started wrestling,” said El Molino coach Bill Borges, who has taught Christiansen since he was 10, “he didn’t just touch his toe in the water to see how it felt, if you know what I mean. He jumped right in. I have wrestled him every year, to get him better. But this year I stopped for the first time. He’s just too big for me now. There were times I could hardly get out of bed in the morning after I wrestled him. And I couldn’t afford that. I’m a painting contractor. I have to be able to go to work.”
With the idea of getting him better through training, Borges and Bob Christiansen would shop the kid all around Northern California for practice partners. Many were called. Many arrived. Most did not stay. Adult men don’t like to be schooled by a high schooler. The few, the proud, remain. Matt Williams, a Lake County sheriff, 26, a former NCS and NBL champ from Montgomery, wrestles Christiansen twice a week. Greg Robinson, an SRJC freshman wrestler, works Christiansen three times a week. And then there’s Spratt.
“Sometimes Taryn will come out to my house on Sunday and just work in my garden with me,” Spratt said. “We may not wrestle. He’ll be moving dirt in my wheelbarrow and we’ll be talking wrestling.”
Christiansen, 6-foot-1, wants to be a state champion and right now he’s on course. Wednesday night Christiansen pinned Sonoma Valley’s Jonny Amandoli in the first round. Christiansen is 11-0 this year wrestling at 195, all but two of those victories pins, and nine of those pins coming in the first round. The top three finishers in NCS go to state.
His coaches, his practice partners, they all say the same thing. Christiansen will wrestle in college. His father said he has exchanged text messages, phone calls and snail mail with recruiters from South Dakota State, Gardner-Webb, Wabash, Central University (Iowa) and Northern New Mexico State University. Christiansen said he may go to SRJC for a year before moving on. If he does, he’ll have his training partner, Robinson, as a teammate.
“What impresses me about him?” Robinson said. “You mean, besides him giving me a run for my money even though I’m a college wrestler?”
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.