For wrestling programs across the Sac-Joaquin Section, the biggest week of their season began huddled around a printer on Monday afternoon.
In the southern most region of the section, a nervous, curious batch of wrestlers paced about a wrestling room, waiting for the news to be delivered.
One by one, Golden Valley coach Chopper Mello waved them over.
In his hands were the brackets for the Masters Championships at Stockton Arena on Friday and Saturday.
Six weight classes for six wrestlers: Julian Terry, Ben Weber, Antonio Guizar, Daniel Gonzalez, Joey Allen and William Sanchez.
In a private corner, Mello met with each wrestler individually before the start of practice.
He took turns outlining first-round matchups, what each of them might expect, when a question stopped him. And stumped him.
"What if lose," said Terry, Golden Valley's 130-pounder, "who will I face next?"
Terry draws Oakdale's Shane Tate. Terry's fears are warranted -- Tate is ranked sixth in the state by The California Wrestler -- but Mello wasn't going to give him any reason to doubt his ability.
"If you lose?" Mello said. "You think you're going to lose?"
For next hour or so, Mello coached not only his wrestlers' training and technique but their confidence.
He became a cheerleader; a broken record, filling their minds with hope and optimism.
He highlighted their strengths. Used hyperbole and cliches, such as "anyone can win on any given day" or "at this point, everybody is good."
Other coaches across the section are employing their own tactics: pointing to banners with names of past champions and inviting alumni into the wrestling room.
"You have to tell your kids how good they are and make sure they know it," Mello said. "You have to become a cheerleader more at this point than a coach. Kids are fragile. I know how they think. You can't let get into that mindset. You have to brainwash them."
Longtime Atwater coach Paul Bristow doesn't have a wrestler in the field this weekend, but after 34 years of coaching, he's become a savvy motivator.
His advice to teenage hopefuls: worry less about the opponent; focus more on the goal.
"The biggest thing is the stress they put on themselves. They reach a point of heightened emotion that they drain themselves of everything," Bristow said. "When they get out there it's like they can't move. Or they can't move like they normally would."
Coaches aren't just guarding against doubt.
Stage fright will be a hot-button issue on Friday for wide-eyed wrestlers. Masters has moved from the University of the Pacific to Stockton Arena, a bigger, more cavernous venue.
From the tunnel and back hallways to the open floor plan with 10 matches going on at once, Stockton Arena is of the same size and spectacle as Rabobank Arena -- the site of the CIF State Meet.
Some might see it as the ultimate stage -- a chance to command the attention of the room -- while others might feel trapped by the spotlight.
"Your mom and dad aren't right there. Your teammates aren't right there. You're out there by yourself," Mello said. "We have to get kids used to that. It's kind of a lonely feeling to be up in front of so many people.
"It's like being under a spotlight."
In the last few years, Bristow has helped many of the section's top wrestlers combat the jitters and butterflies associated with big-time, big-venue wrestling.
In 2008, he and former St. Mary's coach Ron Davis hosted the first annual Big Valley Classic at Stockton Arena.
This season, the tournament field featured 69 teams, including Golden Valley, Buhach Colony and Livingston.
There isn't a tournament that rivals Big Valley's stature and size of venue, said Bristow.
"You'll see a lot of guys that have been beating the tar out of people that won't wrestle well," he added. "Every year at Masters, guys highly ranked don't even place.
"They break mentally."
Not if their coaches can help it. With metaphorical pom-poms, Mello is doing everything he can to keep confidence surging.
"For me, the biggest part of this week isn't the physical training," he said. "This week is about the mental training.
"You have to talk it up."
Up, up, up!
James Burns is managing editor/sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.