West High will go after a third consecutive Tri-City Athletic League championship. Kimball High is building a team with state qualifier Trent Nicholson back for his junior year, while at Tracy High, the Bulldogs mix experience and raw talent on the mat with an eye on the San Joaquin Athletic Association title.
West Wolf Pack
The Wolf Pack has been on the leading edge of the TCAL for three years.
Three years ago, when this year’s seniors were freshmen, West won the TCAL tournament but was league runner-up to McNair, which swept the league duals. The Wolf Pack then went undefeated in league duals for the next two years.
West senior Amrit Singh expects this year’s team to repeat those accomplishments.
“Last year and the year before, that was the dream team, but we’re trying to bring it back for my senior year,” Singh said. “We have a tough group of guys and they’re working pretty hard.”
Singh, last year’s TCAL champion in the 182-pound weight class, moved on to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet, where he finished just one match away from the medal rounds and a chance to qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation state meet.
The heart of West’s team also includes senior Roy Bravo, last year’s TCAL champion in the 126-pound class.
“A lot of guys on the varsity lineup were behind the starters last year, but they learned and they know what to expect already,” Bravo said.
Sophomore Angel Castillo, league champ in the 106-pound class, and senior Scott Romo, league runner-up in the 160-pound class, are also back.
West coach Carlos Salazar, now in his second year, said he has enough wrestlers to be strong in all 14 weight classes. He said intense workouts will get them ready for competition.
“We base everything on conditioning,” he said. “If you can’t win technically, we’re going to wear you down.
I see a lot of potential in these guys.”
West faced Lodi on Thursday, Nov. 29, in a non-league dual, and will put its team to the test at the McNair High tournament on Saturday, Dec. 1.
After the league season, TCAL teams will compete in the SJS Division I AA, which is made up of the Monticello Empire League, Modesto Metro Conference and Sierra Foothill League. Teams in the division include defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion Vacaville (MEL).
Kimball junior Trent Nicholson’s trip to the California Interscholastic Federation state championships last year put him into a level of competition that suits him well.
“I’m hoping to improve on last year and place at state,” he said. “I was mainly there for the experience and to get ready for this year and next year. I did better than I thought I would.”
As a sophomore, Nicholson won the 126-pound class in the Valley Oak League and in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV and then placed fifth at the SJS Masters meet. He went 3-2 at state and was eliminated two matches away from the medal rounds.
Since then, he has wrestled year-round with USA Wrestling, including the national freestyle and Greco tournament in Fargo, N.D., in July, and state-level competition in the spring, including a first-place finish in the 132-pound class at the California USA Junior FILA Greco tournament in Fresno in April.
“I’ve been doing lot of off-season stuff, like freestyle nationals, and all those guys are state qualifiers. I was used to it, but it was tough. You’ve got to make sure you bring your A game every match,” Nicholson said.
He follows the path of his father, Larry Nicholson, two-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion from Tracy High in 1978 and 1980 and runner-up in 1979. Larry Nicholson went on to win medals three times at state, including a silver in the 103-pound class during his senior year in 1980.
Trent Nicholson anchors a Kimball team that is in its fourth year as a program. The team also brings back sophomore Reese Chew, who was second in Division IV last year in the 106-pound class. Nicholson and Chew have continued to train together through the rest of the year.
Kimball coach Pete Mullen said he’s just waiting to see how his team, the heavy classes in particular, will weigh in. Junior Matthew Cooper (182 pounds) and seniors Logan Finley (195), and Nathan Pearlman (285) all qualified for Division IV competition last year.
“When we have our guys on weight, … we’ll have eight or nine tough kids in the lineup,” Mullen said. “What really hurt us is the guys who didn’t come out. That hurt our lower weights.”
Coach Tony Leanos said the most encouraging aspect of his Bulldog team so far is the number of wrestlers. He counts about 60, including more than 20 freshmen.
“I think we’ve got a real good core. Our freshman and sophomore group is really what’s nice,” he said. “As far as league goes, we’ll be the guys to beat.”
Leanos goes down his list and picks out at least eight wrestlers who he expects will be either SJAA champs or finalists.
The obvious picks include senior Albert Landeros, last year’s SJAA gold medalist in the 120-pound class and a Sac-Joaquin Section Masters qualifier.
Landeros said that it’s exciting to be joined by young wrestlers with big expectations.
“We have a lot of new guys, like we do every year, but this year it seems like a lot more of our freshmen are getting a lot more into it than they have been in other years,” Landeros said.
Junior Alex Warner also is looking forward to bringing up new wrestlers.
“They’re going to be taught from the very beginning,” Warner said. “It starts them young and it builds them up. Some of them could be going to state this year.”
Warner is out to take a big step forward himself. He was third in the 220-pound class in the SJAA last year.
Also among last year’s returning division-level qualifiers are senior Gage Chavez (126), junior James Faile (220) and sophomore Zoheb Bafaiz (145).
Leanos said that division-level competition will be much tougher this year, because of the realignment.
The SJAA now competes in Division I A, which includes the Central California Conference, Delta River League and Delta Valley Conference.
Those leagues include five schools — Turlock (CCC), Folsom (DRL), Oak Ridge (DRL), Ponderosa (DRL) and Elk Grove (DVC) — that were among the section’s top 10 teams during the SJS Masters meet last season.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.