Leadership is at a premium for the Durango High School wrestling team, and fortunately for the Demons they have Kaleb McMunn to shoulder the responsibility.
McMunn, a senior at DHS and the Demons’ 170-pounder, possess everything the young team needs in a leader: varsity experience that spans the last few seasons, an unrelenting work ethic and a personality the rest of the roster gravitates to.
“His attitude is phenomenal,” DHS head coach Leo Garand said of McMunn. “The kids look up to him not only in the wrestling room but in the classroom and the hallways. He’s just a great young man all the way around. When the guys picked their captains he was voted unanimously by the team. He’s just that kind of guy.”
McMunn is one of a handful of upperclassmen on the roster that is made up primarily of freshman – 11 of the 20 wrestlers for the Demons this season are freshman.
With such a young team looking to McMunn for guidance through the rigors of the season, the senior looked back to the former Demons he once went to for the same leadership, both on and off the wrestling mat.
“I definitely look back on the senior leaders I had as a freshman and sophomore, and look at the good and the bad that I thought they had,” McMunn said. “I try to encompass all of the good stuff and push them hard at practice.
“And a lot of it is the stuff outside of wrestling. In school or downtown or at Wal-Mart, I want everyone to be men of character outside of wrestling as well as in wrestling. If you have good guys outside of practice, I think it will definitely show inside of practice.”
McMunn is off to a good start in his senior campaign. Through the first few weeks of the season, he has compiled a 12-4 record despite wrestling in a weight class heavier than he should be. He has been wrestling at 170 pounds so far this season, but when the team gets back on the mat after the holiday break and wrestlers are given a two-pound allowance, he’ll compete at the 160-pound weight class.
According to Garand, wrestling at a heavier weight class has cost McMunn at least one victory this season when he was eliminated from the Warrior Classic earlier this month in Grand Junction with a one-point decision loss to Montrose’s Ben Robuck.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the match he lost by one point to eliminate him came down to the other kid being bigger than he is,” Garand said. “He wasn’t outwrestled by any means, and I think he knows that getting down to the weight class he should be at is going to take that intangible away.”
When McMunn gets to compete in the 160-pound weight class – 162 after the two-pound allowance – Garand believes he’ll not only be more competitive, but has a legitimate chance to qualify and place at February’s state tournament.
But the state tournament is still several weeks away, and while McMunn has had a good start to the season, he knows he and the rest of the Demons have a long way to go.
“I think within these first few weeks, the team definitely is at the right stage,” he said. “I think we need to spend a little time tightening up the details. There are a lot of freshman on the team, which I think is pretty cool, and they’re doing a good job in the varsity spots. I think they’re all at good spots technique- and skill-wise, we just need some good practice going up against better teams to show what we all need to work on.”