When Atsamaz Pliev moved to the United States from just outside Russia four years ago, he couldn’t speak English, much less know anything about scholastic wrestling.
Flash forward four years and Pliev, a senior at Sierra, is just as articulate as any high school athlete, and since Saturday, is the owner of state wrestling medals from two different states, making history for the Sierra wrestling program.
Pliev became the first wrestler from Sierra, which was established in 1984, to place at the state tournament with his third-place finish in 3A 220 pounds.
“He made history today,” said Sierra coach Marcel Cooper. “He had all of the tools to win the tournament. He came up a little short but we are more than satisfied with the result, it was major.”
Last year Pliev placed eighth at 220 in the Washington state championships.
“I don’t even know how to describe it to be honest,” Pliev said. “When I found out (that I could be the first medal winner) it kind of gave me a push to push myself harder and to make history. I wanted to try to inspire the following generations at the school to work harder and make wrestling better.”
Pliev fell in a narrow 3-1 decision during the 220 quarterfinals to Bayfield’s Daniel Westbrook - just his second loss of the year. Westbrook lost in the semifinals only to meet Pliev again in the consolation finals - where Pliev found quick, sweet revenge, pinning Westbrook in just 38 seconds.
“I kind of sucks that I lost in the quarterfinals, I didn’t really feel my best in the match but it felt really nice to get a revenge match and get that back,” Pliev said. Eli Smith, a senior from Salida took the 220-pound title, finishing the year 28-1 -- his one loss was to Pliev in the 3A Region 4 tournament a week ago.
“The other kids are ready to start training tomorrow just from him getting a medal” Cooper said. “They’re ready and hopefully we can get some more medals over the next few seasons.”
Pliev transferred to Sierra before his senior season from Kennewick, Washington after his family decided they wanted to live in a climate more akin to their home in Ossetia, a small, mountainous republic just outside the Russian border.
His family chose Colorado Springs for the climate and proximity to the front range. The Olympic Training Center is just an added bonus for Pliev, who this year has garnered interest from the center.
“I feel that I have accomplished enough for high school,” said Pliev, who finished his senior year 33-2. “I want to start wrestling at a higher level.”
Pliev also has interest from Division I college programs, and although he is unsure of his future plans, he knows he wants to become a physical therapist.
“It’s going to be a long road, but with my determination I’m going to do it,” Pliev said.
His determination has already driven him to success through his high school career. While reflecting on his last two seasons, Pliev said he’s proud of the ‘huge gap’ he was able to bridge from eighth place in Washington state to bronze in Colorado.
“I started my wrestling career as a freshman and I had some bumps and humps in the beginning, but I started picking up the feel and the skill and I kept grinding,” Pliev said. “It’s pretty amazing to think about that I’ve done and knowing that when I came to America I couldn’t even speak English - that’s a good accomplishment too.”