The stakes couldn’t be higher

Gilroy
– The five biggest reasons for Gilroy’s three-peat as CCS
wrestling champions this year are sitting in a Bakersfield motel
room, waiting for Mustangs head coach Armando Gonzalez and his
assistant coach Mike Koester to round up some food.
Gilroy – The five biggest reasons for Gilroy’s three-peat as CCS wrestling champions this year are sitting in a Bakersfield motel room, waiting for Mustangs head coach Armando Gonzalez and his assistant coach Mike Koester to round up some food. Gonzalez reports over the telephone Thursday night that he and Koester are also ordering up big, juicy hamburgers for themselves.

Nicolo Naranjo, Adin Dueñas, the coach’s son Armando Gonzalez, Austin Gubrud and Hunter Collins aren’t so lucky.

The five wrestlers Gilroy sends to today’s State Championships at Centennial Garden in Bakersfield have to carb-load with bagels, rice and lots of fluids, says coach Gonzalez. They’ve all registered at the event, and now it’s time to get as much energy as they can back into their bodies, in as efficient a manner as possible without breaking weight.

And that means dry starches and dull tastes, forget about anything that’s going to tickle the tongue.

Luckily the Gilroy quintet – four Central Coast Section individual champions and Gubrud, a fourth-place finisher – are used to pushing their bodies to the limit, to going without the foods they’d like to eat, to putting today’s pleasures on hold for a higher purpose down the line.

There’s no higher purpose for a wrestler than the State Finals, said 130-pounder Dueñas after his CCS title-match win at Overfelt High last Saturday.

“State’s the main goal,” the junior said. “All these other tournaments are pretty much all preparation for the state meet. It matters to qualify for league and CCS to get to State, but State’s our main goal.”

Coach Gonzalez thinks his young team has a shot at making a big impact in Bakersfield, where last year’s Gilroy squad wrapped up a 13th-place State finish – the highest in school history. John Gurich, 4th at 112, was the only placer for the Mustangs in 2004. This year Gonzalez believes four ‘Stangs have a shot at placing and the goal for the team is a Top 10 finish.

“We’re thinking all four of our (CCS) champs should make it into the third round,” he said. Gonzalez noted that Naranjo (103), Dueñas and his son Armando (135) were all State qualifiers last year. All three went 3-2 and just missed placing. Naranjo, a sophomore, is ranked No. 5 in the state, while Gonzalez, a junior, is No. 2. Collins, a freshman 160-pounder, makes his first appearance in Bakersfield after beating CCS preseason No. 1 Dan Montanez of Monta Vista three times this season, the latest win coming at Overfelt. Gubrud, a sophomore qualifier at 140 lbs., was perhaps the biggest surprise on the team this year – he placed fourth at CCS a year after going 0-2 at the section finals to drop out of contention on the first day.

“All of these guys here at state are all underclassmen,” added Koester. “But I think we’ve got a great chance of coming home with two medals. Armando could make the finals and the rest of them might be right there, too.”

With the remarkable success of the Gilroy wrestling program in recent years – it’s only the third team in CCS history to win three section championships in a row – it’s getting easy to take more accolades for granted.

One person who isn’t taking the grapplers for granted is Gilroy High athletic director Jack Daley.

“I think that winning the section title three years in a row is just outstanding,” he said Thursday.

“What Coach Gonzales and Mike (Koester) have done with the team is amazing.”

Five individuals, one team

Getting to know Gilroy’s quintet of qualifiers for this weekend’s State Championships

The Thrill

Nico Naranjo (103) was a state qualifier last year as a freshman. He went 3-2 and was a match away from placing in 2004. The preseason state No. 1 is currently ranked 5th. Says coach Armando Gonzalez: “This year he’s a big 103-pounder … we’re hoping he’ll be top six at State. He’s our most exciting wrestler.”

The BEST

Armando Gonzalez (135) wrestles like you’d expect of the coach’s son. The higher the stakes, the better he does. Currently ranked No. 2 in California, the junior clinched the Mustangs’ team win at CCS. Gonzalez went 3-2 at State last year. “This year he should be in the State final,” said his dad. “On paper, he’s our best bet. He’s our best wrestler.”

The Technician

Adin Dueñas (130) is a junior making his third trip to the state finals. He was CCS runner-up two years in row before winning it all this year. “We’re confident he’s ready to bring home a medal. Dueñas also went 3-2 in Bakersfield last year, and his coach calls him “our most technical wrestler.”

The surprise

Austin Gubrud (140) went 0-2 at CCS as a freshman. A year later, he’s a fourth-place section qualifier. “Imagine what a turnaround that was this year,” said Gonzalez.

The Talent

Hunter Collins (160) was supposed to be good, but the new CCS champ wasn’t supposed to be this good, this fast. Gonzalez: “Hunter may be the most talented wrestler on our team.”

First matches

Five Gilroy wrestlers start competition at the State Championships at Bakersfield’s Centennial Gardens today. Here are their opponents, with times to be announced. Doors open at 9am.

103: Nicolo Naranjo

vs. Jaime Sullivan (Carlsbad)

130: Adin Dueñas

vs. Gil Almendavez (Chino)

135: Armando Gonzalez

vs. Anthony Garcia (Alhambra)

140: Austin Gubrud

vs. (to be determined)

160: Hunter Collins

vs. Jay Regner (Falbrook)

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