BRISTOL - Bristol Easternâ€™s Justin Marshall and Trinidad Gonzalez may star on different sides of the football field and wrestle in different weight classes but the Lancers wrestling and football programs wouldnâ€™t be the same without the two juniors.
Following the Virginia Beach Nationals on March 23-25 for wrestling, both Marshall and Gonzalez will conclude what have been highly successful junior seasons for the two.
â€śI think I had two pretty good seasons,â€ť Gonzalez said. â€śI think I did way better than I did my sophomore seasons in both sports. I improved a lot more."
â€śBoth seasons were good and we had fun playing both sports,â€ť Marshall said. â€śTheyâ€™re different because [wrestling] is more individually based and [football] is team based.â€ť
On the wrestling mat, Marshall wrestled at 152 pounds and Gonzalez at 195.
Each of them won individual state championships in their weight class in the Class L tournament. For Gonzalez, it was back-to-back titles.
More impressively, Gonzalez went on to finish second at the State Open and has a 37-8 record overall going into Nationals. He went 2-2 at the New England Championship. It will be Gonzalezâ€™s first time taking the trip down to Virginia Beach.
â€śTrinidad is such a competitive kid but he comes across as casual and a joker,â€ť Bristol Eastern wrestling coach Bryant Lishness said. â€śThat competitive drive is what separates him from others though. He absolutely hates to lose. Thereâ€™s times when heâ€™s willed himself to wins because he just wonâ€™t give in.â€ť
Marshall came into the season with high expectations after missing a large chunk of last year due to a broken bone in his elbow that he suffered in the Thanksgiving Day football game.
He didnâ€™t disappoint, as Marshall currently holds a 32-9 record overall. In the State Open he had a rematch with Amityâ€™s Matthew Rothman, who Marshall had beat to take first place in Class L. Rothman beat him at the Open and Marshall came in sixth place, a disappointing finish.
While the Open didnâ€™t go as planned, the state championship victory was a confidence booster for Marshall, who will look to finish strong at Virginia Beach, where he finished 3-2 last season.
â€śJustin is a really talented kid,â€ť Lishness said.â€ť Heâ€™s one of those kids who needs to feel like he earned it and winning the state championship I think did that. In the Open, Rothman just outwrestled Justin that match. Rothmanâ€™s a senior and has a lot of pride. Sometimes thatâ€™s just the way it goes.â€ť
Expectations will be high next season for the Bristol Eastern program coming off of back-to-back Class L state championships. If the Lancers are to defend their title, both Marshall and Gonzalez will need to continue their progress in the sport.
â€śBoth have been wrestling for a very long time,â€ť Lishness said. â€śThey needed high goals to do what they did. I wouldnâ€™t say they were expecting it, but they had to believe it and needed the right mindset to do so.â€ť
The team success in wrestling hasnâ€™t been the same on the football field as Bristol Eastern is coming off a 2-8 season. Still, the two wins were an improvement.
For Lancers head football coach Anthony Julius, having his players wrestle is a positive, as it gives them that winning mentality.
The two sports also have much in common.
â€śWhen you tackle people in football you need a certain form and in wrestling you need the same form to take people down,â€ť Gonzalez said. â€śItâ€™s similar in form and keeps you in shape all year.â€ť
Marshall and Gonzalez hope the winning mentality the wrestling team has had will come to fruition in their senior seasons on the gridiron.
The opportunity is there to do so as Bristol Eastern is returning some key pieces to go with the two.
But Marshallâ€™s play at quarterback and Gonzalezâ€™s play in the middle of the defense at linebacker must be productive.
This past season, the two took big steps forward.
Marshall passed for over 1,000 yards and threw for double-digit touchdowns. Gonzalez led the team in tackles with 91, 10 going for a loss of yardage. He also added a sack in the backfield.
While Marshall starred at quarterback, he also played on defense last season. Gonzalez just played defense but is hoping to see some action offensively at running back in his final year.Heâ€™ll be continuing to work on his speed to do so.
Marshall is going to attend camps to continue his improvement at the quarterback position.
With Marshall and Gonzalez likely to improve as seniors with the offseason work put in, itâ€™s could be an issue for opponents facing the Lancers. For Lishness and Julius, itâ€™s a luxury that any coach wants to have.
â€śTheyâ€™re both great kids,â€ť Lishness said. â€śJustin has no behavior issues. He works really hard and conducts himself professionally. He wants to compete, sets goals and puts in the work to reach them. Trinidad may be the most competitive kid on our team. Heâ€™s hard to get points off and weâ€™re going to continue to push him to be even better next year. The goal next year is to have both get on the medal stand at New Englands.â€ť
â€śThey both took big steps forward from the year before,â€ť Julius said. â€śJustin improved on leadership in the huddle as a junior and he got the guys to follow him. Trinidad Gonzalez was our rock on defense all year. Weâ€™re expecting both of them to take another step forward in their senior seasons. Theyâ€™re looking to leave their mark on the program.â€ť
Both have already left a substantial impact on both programs and with one year left, Marshall and Gonzalez will look to add to it.
â€śI just want to go out with no regrets and know that I worked hard in the offseason and gave it my all,â€ť Gonzalez said.
â€śI just need to play to the best of my abilities,â€ť Marshall said. â€śIf people remember me they remember me but if they donâ€™t they donâ€™t. Iâ€™m playing for the team and my team is the most important thing.â€ť