It’s that time again

Mustangs aim to dominate when they host nearly 600 wrestlers at
this weekend’s Mid-Cals.
From Reno to Fresno to Los Angeles, this year’s Gilroy High wrestling team has traveled far and wide and taken on all comers. Yes, the Mustangs, back-to-back CCS champions, are used to competing in prestigous tournaments.

They’re just not used to doing it at home.

After nearly two months of trucking around the region to wrestle, the ‘Stangs – currently ranked 10th in the state – finally get to strut their stuff in front of the home crowd this weekend.

Starting this morning and lasting through Saturday night, Gilroy hosts nearly 50 schools and 600 wrestlers at the 25th annual Mid-Cals.

“We’ve been traveling and staying at hotels all year,” said GHS junior Armando Gonzalez. “It’ll be fun to have family and friends and everybody watching us at this one.”

Granted, it’s not always fun for the tournament organizers. Gonzalez’s father, GHS head coach Armando Gonzalez, is in charge of much of the pre-tournament planning.

Even though he said the parents and booster club have recently stepped up to take over many of the during-tournament duties, the sixth-year coach still called the whole experience draining.

“It’s murder,” Gonzalez said.

Don’t let that fool you, though. Gonzalez, along with many others, has turned this old tournament into one of the top three or four in the entire state of California – and he knows how much it means to the coaches, fans and most certainly his wrestlers.

“It’s a great experience with the home crowd,” the younger Gonzalez said. “It gets real loud when a Gilroy guy is wrestling. It’s awesome. That gets you pumped up.”

For teammate Adin Dueñas, the top seed in the 134-pound class, it’s all about the spotlight – although not the individual kind.

After finishing third and fourth in his first two tries, the junior is simply itching to advance to the finals, when GHS dims the lights and flips the switch on the spotlight.

“I’d definitely like that,” Dueñas said. “That spotlight … that’s the main reason I’ve always wanted to get to the finals.”

That sense of excitement is pervasive with the rest of the Mustangs.

After what he deemed a “less than stellar” effort at the Overfelt Tournament this past weekend, coach Gonzalez said he’s noticed a different sense of focus from his team since the start of Monday’s practice.

“You could tell early on they had picked it up,” he said. “These guys are ready.”

They’re especially ready after finishing second to Fremont last weekend – albeit with a depleted team.

Although the younger Gonzalez was one of three top wrestlers – along with Dueñas and Nicolo Naranja – to rest up by sitting out at Overfelt, he said no one in the Gilroy camp was happy with the overall performance.

“In practice, we’ve stepped it up two or three notches from last week,” he said. “We’re ready to prove why we’re ranked No. 1 in CCS.”

If that’s the case, the Mid-Cals are certainly a good place to do it.

In addition to hosting several highly ranked wrestlers from several highly ranked programs – Elk Grove, Buchanan and Turlock to name a few – the tournament is also a virtual preview of the Central Coast Section tourney, which takes place Feb. 18-19.

“We’re probably going to be seeing some future opponents,” Dueñas said. “This is the last tournament all the CCS teams compete in, so it’s a preview of the seedings a lot of the times.”

After taking second the last two years, it’s also a tournament the Mustangs would like to win this time around.

“I think we have a better shot this time,” the younger Gonzalez said. “I just think this team is ready.”

And what about you, Adin? Excited yet?

“Of course, just talking to you right now about it,” Dueñas responded with a smile. “I can’t wait to wrestle.”

Notes: GHS suffered a big blow recently when Naranjo came down with bronchitis. One of the state’s top-ranked 103-pounders, the sophomore will not compete at Mid-Cals … The rival Haybalers of Hollister will send four wrestlers to Gilroy. The group is led by Ryan Dunn, the third seed in the 219-pound weight class. He’s currently ranked No. 1 in CCS … Only five of this year’s Mustangs have ever competed at Mid-Cals: Gonzalez, Dueñas, Austin Gubrud, Joseph Serrano and Rudy Maldonaldo.

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