TORRINGTON – First year Torrington High School boys’ soccer coach Gabe Bartlett was hired to be the next coach in June of 2019 but will have to wait until March of 2021 to lead the Blazers onto the old Wiseman Field for the first time.
Bartlett, who assisted Jeshua Arnusch leading the Blazers to a fifth-place finish at the 2019 state tournament, understands the gravity of the situation and why the activities association made the decision they did.
Disappointment surrounded last week’s Wyoming High School Activities Association announcement about the cancelation of the 2020 season.
“I was pretty crushed,” Bartlett said. “Being my first year and the team we had coming back, it is a sad deal. I know my assistant coaches were crushed too and the kids as well.”
He knew his team had a chance to make some noise in 2020 with a large group of younger players.
“This team had a chance to be a pretty special team and do some good things. Everyone was looking forward to that,” Bartlett said. “It’s not the best situation, but we’ll move on.”
Bartlett did get to do a little work with the team, despite it not being a full team since the Torrington boys’ basketball team were still preparing to play in the Class 3A State Tournament in Casper.
He had a chance to work on some basic fundamentals during that first week when practice was allowed to start on March 9.
“It was just mostly hitting the fundamentals hard that first week,” Bartlett said. “We didn’t even have a chance to implement anything yet.”
The Blazers had two seniors on the roster – Nate Gutierrez and Benji Braddy – who will be lost to graduation in May, and Bartlett was planning to rely heavily on the duo.
“Nate Gutierrez was coming off an All-State season last year, and he was looking to come out and get his name out there. I know he wanted to play college soccer. This was supposed to be his big year,” Bartlett said. “Benji was another one that we’ve had since the beginning. He is just an awesome kid to be around. He’ll make you smile every day. They both loved soccer.”
Behind that class of seniors was another small group of juniors before you get to the core of the team which featured more than a dozen sophomores.
That group really started to come together during their freshman season with a 14-5 record.
“What we started last year in building the program and what we wanted to do,” Bartlett said. “It was started to come to life.”
Bartlett added the missed year will hurt in terms of the team playing together.
“The team dynamic is the biggest thing that will hurt us this year,” Bartlett said. “Overall the athleticism and overall skill that will be coming back next year, I have no doubt we’ll be right there again in the conversation, playing for a state championship.”
He hopes COVID-19 will clear up this summer so he can get some work in with the team as they look ahead to the spring of 2021.
“We will try to do some things over the summer if possible. I don’t know if this virus will allow us, but that’s kind of the plan. If we can play over the summer, we’ll try to do that just to get something in,” Bartlett said. “We are looking forward to getting back next year and go from there.”