BOUNTIFUL – Bountiful High wrestling coach Matt Ripplinger used to have a problem.
It seemed every time his Braves went to a tournament, they would come away in the same position Й at the bottom of the heap.
“Each tournament my first year, we either finished in last place, or close to the bottom,” Ripplinger said. “It was frustrating. I would struggle with the frustration of slow progress. I kept using all my energy and attention on what I could do to make the change happen more quickly. My high goals and expectations made discouragement come easier when we weren’t progressing as fast as I wanted.”
In the third year at Bountiful, that is all changing for Ripplinger. After starting the season ranked 12th in the 4A state standings, Bountiful’s strong showing at the Layton Invitational landed Bountiful at No. 7.
“Because we were returning with seven state qualifiers, three of which were returning placers, we had high expectations of what we thought we could achieve,” he said. “We came out with a much higher pre-season ranking (12th) to begin the year. I met with the leaders of the team, and we thought we could do a lot better than the ranking.”
“We were happy that we were finally being noticed, but felt it wasn’t a true representation of what our potential was. We set our goal to beat that and shoot for a higher ranking. With that in mind, practices were centered on changing it. That pushed the kids to work hard so they could do the best they could.”
When Ripplinger saw the rankings, some thought there had been a problem.
“I opened the rankings and burst out in happy surprise and shock with a verbal gasp,” Ripplinger said. “The funny thing was, this happened while my class was quietly working at their desks.”
“I was very happy to see that we had made a huge jump in the rankings into the top ten. I felt so happy for the ranking and recognition of the better Bountiful program, but feel like we have the potential to pass some of the teams still ranked ahead of us. We have made some more adjustments in our goals for the next tournament, and even though we will still have the others out of the lineup, we hope to finish even better.”
Among the most important people helping in those early days three years ago was Ripplinger’s wife, Tiffany. It was she who carried the frustrated coach as his athletes continued to make that early slow, but steady, progress.
“Tiffany was the one who is responsible for me to be able to endure the slow struggle. She would remind me that it would take a while, and would point out the small accomplishments. It helped me from getting discouraged,” he said.
That emotional investment by the Ripplinger’s and the entire Bountiful wrestling program is paying off now. Ripplinger is quick to point out it is not about him, but about the young men and their families who have bought into the ideals of the program.
“We have great guys and families who have been with me for three years and new people coming into the program and it’s those people who get the most credit,” Ripplinger said. “They work very hard and they believed we could achieve great things.”
“It’s combined with the administrators here at Bountiful who support us,” he said. “Those things are just starting to happen because of those people.”