Room of Dreams: Balers set to open sparkling facility

A new state-of-the-art weight room was set to open Aug. 22 at San Benito High.

San Benito High wrestling coach Steven Salcedo never thought he would see this day. Same goes for junior varsity football coach Chris Cameron. The list goes on and on, with scores of people within the Haybalers athletics program dying to see the school replace the archaic weight room and wrestling facility with a modernized version.

That day is almost near. On Aug. 22 (the date could be switched as things are finalized), the high school of 3,000-plus students—one of the largest enrollments in the Central Coast Section—will have a grand opening/ribbon cutting to unveil the sparkling new weight room and wrestling room facility.

“I felt like a kid at Christmas time,” said Salcedo, who has made several visits to the facility in the last week. “When I walked into that weight room, my jaw dropped and a big smile came over my face. It’s absolutely breathtaking.I can’t wait to get in there my self and lift a couple of weights.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a better high school athletic facility in the state. Combined, the weight facility and wrestling room equal nearly 9,000 square feet. All that’s left is for the Olympic bars, dumbbells and kettlebells to arrive. The wrestling room is another jewel, massive in scope and capacity. Once the mats are cured and placed, the facility will be ready for use.

The weight room has top of the line, state of the art equipment, with over a dozen power racks where athletes can do squats and deadlifts. Just as important, the facility has several machines that supplement athletes who are on a specific strength-training program.

The glute-ham raise apparatus, for example, allow athletes to work on a move that will help them increase their squat, deadlift and clean. Strength and conditioning specialists—almost every pro sports franchise has one on staff—laud the benefits of the glute-ham raise, which builds a superior posterior chain.

In other words, it develops strong hamstrings, glutes and the lower back, which are vital for explosive movement. Football coach Bryan Smith marveled at the shiny new digs.

“Coach Cam couldn’t believe it was happening,” said Smith, the former standout athlete and longtime offensive coordinator who was promoted to coach after Cameron stepped down in the off-season. “He spent so much time on this, probably close to 15-plus years. He told me many times things were close, but they just didn’t have enough bond money (to launch a construction project for a new facility). But we had an administration and board that finally supported the movement.”

Other features of the new facility include two team rooms with 120 total lockers—60 for male and 60 for female. Construction on the facilities broke ground officially in May 2015, nearly a year after voters approved Measure G, a $42.5 million general obligation facilities bond that went into construction of new academic and athletic facilities, among other things. Superintendent John Perales emphasized the weight room and wrestling room facilities were not paid by bond money, but rather from the district general fund.

“These were funds that board members present and past saved and saved with a vision of having something like this,” Perales said. “President Ray Rodriguez had this vision and saw the need for a wrestling facility 13 years ago, believe it or not. For many reasons, it never got off the ground. Once I came on board (two years ago), we wanted to make this happen.”

Far from just benefitting the football and wrestling teams, the new weight room facility is a treat for the 1,600 students who take P.E. classes cycling over every two days, Perales said. With more sports than ever—the school added field hockey and lacrosse within the last year—athletes from all sports have access to a weight room to get bigger, stronger and faster.

The impact of the new weight room and wrestling room will be evident immediately.

“What translates now is the motivation factor,” Smith said. “If kids have a hard time getting motivated to work out, that can be thrown out the door because we have a facility where people are excited to be at. So the immediate impact will be motivational—I believe you’ll see a higher commitment level from our guys as far as taking care of their bodies to be at their absolute best on the field.”

For many years, the Balers football and wrestling programs have won in spite of outdated facilities. Whenever the football team lifted weights, some of the players had to strength-train outside in the adjacent parking lot because there wasn’t enough room in the old facility. Salcedo, a former standout wrestler at the school, said comparing the old wrestling room to the new one is like night and day.

“We can finally have all of our teams (freshmen, junior varsity and varsity) all practice under one roof,” he said. “We can spread our wings a bit and compete in the room and not have to worry about kids hitting their head on the air conditioner or on the wall.”

The next generation of San Benito wrestlers will benefit as well, as Salcedo plans on expanding youth club programs now with a first-class facility where kids can practice and have a place they can proudly call home. The Balers have a rich sports tradition, and the excitement level around every program just went up a few levels as word of the unveiling of the new facilities spread.

“The facilities are absolutely beautiful,” Perales said. “I’m really proud of our board for supporting the initiative and the administration working hard to get it done.”

Said Smith: “Not every individual is a great student, and not every individual is a great athlete. But when athletes of all sports give their all in terms of buying into a program, it’s tremendous and they absolutely deserve the best to training to reach their potential.”

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