Like many area teams in the winter sports season, the Lompoc High wrestling team has endured swift changes to its own schedule due to the Thomas Fire.

One of the changes included a planned trip down to Camarillo that was called off due to the fierce blaze.

But that abrupt removal didn’t prevent the Braves from staying away from the wrestling mat – as Lompoc’s last meet that was added on Dec. 9 was the Rumble in the Rock at Morro Bay against several other teams. That contest left LHS assistant coach Fred Hayes optimistic about the direction the Braves are going in.

“We have a fairly young team, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the season,” Hayes said by phone earlier this week.

The Braves finished with seven top-five marks in the Dec. 9 meet – including the winner in the 160-pound class Connor Hayes, who is one of the top grapplers back on the LHS mat this season.

“He’s currently ranked 57th in the state and is 11-0 with nine pins,” Hayes said.

Hayes adds that his son, a senior, has aspirations to continue his wrestling career.

“He wants to wrestle in college, but it all depends on what he does this year,” Hayes said, who adds that his son puts in extra time after practice, saying: “He actually spends 45 extra minutes with Marcel Blow to fix his flaws and get extra work.”

But Hayes isn’t the only LHS grappler who has gotten off to a strong start. So has newcomer Declan Sparrow – better known as the backup quarterback from the reigning Los Padres League champion Braves varsity football team. Hayes says Sparrow has stepped up in both the 197-pound class and in leadership with Connor Hayes.

“Declan and Connor has stepped up as leaders. They’re teaching these young guys how to work hard,” Hayes said.

Sparrow, a junior, took second in his weight class in the Morro Bay event.

Hayes cites Nick Jones (220-pounds, took fifth in Morro Bay), Isaiah Terrones (220-pounds, also took fifth in Morro Bay) as the other senior leaders who have had a strong showing to start the season. The Braves also saw highlight performances from two of their youngest wrestlers in the MB tournament: Freshman Gracen Hayes (122-pounds, placed fifth at the tournament) and sophomore Luke Gardner (126-pound class, took fifth in Morro Bay).

The big wrestler inside the LHS mat is another key returner to the varsity team as a sophomore: Heavyweight Jacob Nunez, who Hayes says is in better shape for the season.

“Jacob doesn’t have anyone his size to wrestle with at LHS. But he’s a fun kid to coach because he wants to please you and work hard,” Hayes said. “He’s actually lost 15 pounds. He looks slimmer and in shape. He’s a pure athlete.”

While this Braves team is awaiting Los Padres League play plus readjusting their schedule due to the area fire, Hayes believes there’s still room to improve.

“There are always areas to fine tune and tweak up,” Hayes said.