Legend of the fall

Moffat County wrestling legend returns as assistant

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The Moffat County wrestling program has a storied history.

The program has its titles -- five since 1985.

It has its trademarks -- a pin move that is named after it in at least one state.

And it has its tradition -- the Colorado State Wrestling record book is filled with Moffat County in the top five of 90 percent of its categories.

It also has its legends.

Enter Mark Voloshin.

His name evokes stories from wrestlers who were barely born, if at all, when Voloshin was a Bulldog wrestler.

"I've heard a lot of stories about how tough he was," MCHS 189-pound senior Nick Navratil said. "Most of the stories have something to do with him inflicting pain."

Voloshin was a four-year varsity wrestler at the University of Wyoming after wrestling in Craig.

He has returned to his roots this year as an assistant for the Moffat County program.

It was a long time coming, Bulldogs coach Roman Gutierrez said.

"I'd been trying to get him ever since he came back to Craig after he graduated," Gutierrez said. "We had an opening after (assistant coach Don) Guffy retired last year, so I tried again."

The man of the house wasn't the primary decision-maker.

"Roman had to talk to my wife first," Voloshin said. "When she said it was fine, I looked into it."

A pioneer

Voloshin was a sophomore during the 1982-83 year, when a first-year coach by the name of Roman Gutierrez came to Craig. Early in the season, Voloshin established himself as the team's future leader.

"When I came in, the Moffat style of wrestling was somewhat passive," Gutierrez said. "I had a more aggressive style, and Mark saw that I was frustrated that the guys weren't catching on. He came to me and told me not to worry, because by the time he graduated, the team would give me a state title."

Voloshin and his teammates delivered on that promise two years later.

"When Roman came in, we hadn't beat Steamboat Springs or Meeker in a long time," Voloshin said. "We changed that quickly, and then we earned him a state title."

Talking to those who watched Voloshin wrestle, it's easy to see how the program turned around.

"There was one time when we had a tournament in Pueblo and a kid elbowed Mark in the face in the second period," Gutierrez said. "You could see the fire in (Mark's) eyes after that. Fifteen seconds into the third period, he put the kid on his back and used his legs to stretch him out. The kid was hurting, and Mark would lift the guy's shoulder up to prevent the pin. Then, with 15 seconds or so left, Mark pinned him. He let people know who was the boss."

In the early 1980s, Colorado wrestling was divided into three divisions. Moffat County was in the largest division with all of the large schools.

"It might have been tougher to get a state title back then because of how much talent was in one bracket," Voloshin said. "As a team, you really needed about six or seven guys who were tough to be a state-title contender. Now you need 10 guys who can make it far."

In 1985, the Bulldogs didn't have an individual state champion, but they managed to pull out one of the closest contested team state titles in Colorado history.

"The top four teams were separated by five points," Gutierrez said.

Voloshin went into the state tournament undefeated. He pinned his way to the semifinals, but in that match he injured his opponent. He lost the match by disqualification and moved to the losers bracket.

"We had six guys in the semifinals, and we were sitting pretty for the state title," he said. "Then everybody kept losing, including myself."

He pinned his way through the consolations for third place.

Later in the season he would easily defeat the state champion in an All-State tournament.

"He was the toughest third-place finisher I've probably had," Gutierrez said. "He was easily the best wrestler in that class that year."

Taking the

'rust off the plow'

The coaches play an active roll in the Moffat County wrestling room. Each one has an assignment to teach. Voloshin took over Guffy's work with the kids, focusing on when they are on the mat either trying to escape a pin or earn a pin.

"It was only natural because Mark's leg work put fear in people when he wrestled," Gutierrez said.

Admittedly, it took the former Western Athletic Conference three-time runner-up some time to get back into wrestling shape.

"It took me some time to get the rust off the plow," he said. "Most guys my age will pay $80 for the workout I get everyday. The great thing is that wrestling hasn't changed much since it became the world's first sport. It's still grounding and pounding."

Gutierrez said it also took his new coach time to adjust to life on the other side of the mat.

"It took him about a month to be comfortable to be the coach he could be," the coach said. "He has become a vocal guy, which is a complement to me."

Off the mat, Voloshin is a soft-spoken man, who loves to tend to his family's ranch and talk about wrestling. Once he gets on the mat, it's a different story.

"There was no high-schooler in the room that could beat him this year," said Navratil, who also hasn't lost to a high schooler this year at 40-0. "He has what I like to call 'old man strength' and he's tough. He never stops coming at you."

This year Voloshin worked primarily with the heavier weights.

"There has been so much improvement from those guys," Gutierrez said.

"I bet some of our guys will surprise some people late in the season because of how much better we've become under Mark," Navratil said.

Working for perfection

Aggressiveness is what he's known for, but Voloshin said he focuses on the little details.

"I've tried to bring the little things that put the icing on the cake when you use a move," he said. "The closer you move to perfecting a move, the better off you'll be. Everybody might know how to use a cross-face cradle, but they might not know what it takes to stick a guy with it every time."

Navratil said he has become a better wrestler because of the little things Voloshin has taught him.

"There are so many moves I'm better at this year because of one little thing Mark showed me," he said.

Over the years, Voloshin has also learned how to make pain his ally. He's passing that on to his pupils.

"You're either the giver of pain or the receiver," he said.

That sort of theory is what made him a wrestler.

"Mark wasn't the most talented wrestler we had, but he had the will to win that his opponents didn't," Gutierrez said. "That attitude is what it will take for some of our kids."

It's also an attitude Gutierrez hopes to see continue.

"If we can keep him, maybe he'll be the one to take over when (assistant) Ron (Linsacum) and I leave," he said. "I would feel very comfortable handing the program over to him."

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