How sweet it is

Hunter Collins twists Santiago's Garrott Coehlo into a pretzel

Bakersfield
– For the five members of the Gilroy High wrestling squad that
qualified for the State Championships, last weekend in Bakersfield
was nothing short of historical.
The Mustangs finished in sixth place out of 270 competing teams
with 68 total points. Gilroy’s team finish was the highest in
school history at the the 31-year-old state tournament, matching
the sixth-place finish of the 1993 Mustangs.
Bakersfield – For the five members of the Gilroy High wrestling squad that qualified for the State Championships, last weekend in Bakersfield was nothing short of historical.

The Mustangs finished in sixth place out of 270 competing teams with 68 total points. Gilroy’s team finish was the highest in school history at the the 31-year-old state tournament, matching the sixth-place finish of the 1993 Mustangs. And with four medal-winners, this Gilroy squad has the most state placers ever.

Junior Armando Gonzalez, wrestling at 135 lbs., had the tournament of his career and finished third among the state’s best competition – the best showing by a Mustang. Sophomore Nicolo Naranjo, wrestling at 103 lbs., took fourth in his division. Adin Dueñas, a junior, finished seventh at 130 lbs. And Freshman Hunter Collins became the youngest-ever placer at state in the 160-lb. class.

Mr. Consistency comes through

Coach Gonzalez’s son Armando was regarded as Gilroy’s top threat to place in Bakersfield, and the junior lived up to those expectations with a 5-1 record. His third-place finish was the highest by a Mustang at the State Championships since Luke Corona and Sergio Mar both placed third in 1993.

Gonzalez cemented his status as the area’s top 135-pounder by tearing through the division’s bracket for a 3-0 Day One record. Gonzalez, who was edged out of contention for the division crown after a tough 3-2 loss to Chris Drouin of Chaparral, who went on to finish second overall, scored a pair of dramatic decisions on Saturday.

The first was a 3-1 win over Luke Manuel from Nevada Union. Then, in his final match of the event, Gonzalez met up with Schuyler Palmer of San Diego’s Poway, the team that ran away with the overall title at 167.0 total points. Gonzalez and Palmer appeared to be evenly matched through most of the contest. But it was Gonzalez who came out on top after scoring a two-point takedown late to score the 3-2 victory.

“Last year, we felt that Armando was good enough to place,” said coach Gonzalez. “But with his draw, he ended up losing to the third-place wrestler and then to the fifth-place wrestler. If he would have had any other draw, he would have won a medal last year too.

“The difference between this year and last year is age and experience. And, of course, his ability – he’s really matured. This year has been great for him. He’s really wrestled well and I’m very proud of him.”

The Gilroy junior knows that his performance in Bakersfield places him among the state’s elite grapplers.

“Last year, I wasn’t the best,” Gonzalez said. “But this year, I was one of the better guys out there and I knew that I would be able to wrestle my way through whatever draw I got. Our team really came prepared though. To have four state placers is huge.”

The phenom astonishes

While each of Gilroy’s four medal-winners turned in thrilling performances over the course of the tournament’s two days, it was Collins’ that comes as the biggest, and most welcome surprise.

When Collins soundly defeated Jason Jones of Modoc by a score of 9-3 in his first match on Saturday, he not only secured himself a top-eight finish in his first year of high-school wrestling, he became the heaviest freshman to ever medal at the state tournament.

Wrestlers just aren’t supposed to this good, this big and this young.

It’s unusual enough for a freshman to be wrestling at 160 pounds. But for an athlete of his age – he only turned 15 a few weeks ago – to finish his first season as the eighth-best wrestler at his weight in the state is almost unheard of.

“Hunter’s ability is just years beyond his age,” said Mustangs head coach Armando Gonzalez. “We were elated, and a bit surprised, that Hunter Collins is a state placer and is on the verge of doing some great things for us in the next three years.”

Collins, who went 3-3 in Bakersfield, could possibly become Gilroy High’s first wrestler to place at state four times. What’s more, the prodigy will no doubt be looking for an overall title at some point in his high-school career. Gilroy has had just one No. 1 finisher at the State Championships – Kordell Baker, who followed up a second-place in 1987 with an individual title in 1988.

“I came into the tournament just pretty much expecting to do my best,” Collins said. “And that’s what I did. I was a bit disappointed in my last match but I did my best and I got a medal.”

After his win over Jones, Collins squared off against Raphael Reynolds of San Fernando. Collins found himself down 2-0 after the first round of that match with Reynolds and ended the second down 2-1. With 1:03 remaining, Collins fell on his opponent and made a move to end the match with a pin. But Reynolds countered the freshman’s move, scored a two-point reversal and went on to win 5-1.

Collins next faced Dustin Monte of Righetti for seventh place coming out of the consolation bracket. The Gilroy freshman gave Monte a good fight, but eventually fell 7-2.

The Technician and the Thrill

Wrestling at 130 pounds, Gilroy’s Adin Dueñas is the wrestler coach Gonzalez calls “our most technical.” The technician put together a string of solid performances on his way to a 4-2 record and a seventh-place finish in the tournament. Dueñas defeated Mater Dei’s Gabe Aguilar 9-5 in his first match on Saturday before falling to Josh Betancur from Buchanan, who went on to take third in the division.

In the match for seventh place, Dueñas found himself in trouble early on against Ivan Sanchez of Santiago but scored a point with an escape to take the early 1-0 lead. Sanchez came back with a two-point takedown to claim the lead but another escape by Dueñas tied things up at 2-2. The bright-haired Mustang pulled off a nice takedown late in the second round of the match to take a 4-2 lead and held on for the 4-3 victory.

Dueñas’ big highlight of the weekend came in his 10-1 drubbing of Lemoore’s Dustin Rocha on Friday. Rocha, who got a good draw in consolation, went on to take second place overall in the 130-pound division.

Last, but certainly not least, was the performance of 103-pounder Naranjo, who went 5-2 at the State Championships. The sophomore led the Mustangs in points scored – 25.0 – during a tournament in which he pinned four out of the seven opponents he faced. Naranjo’s other win came via a convincing 10-2 decision over Kellen Aura of Foothill in the clash that got him into the third-place match.

Naranjo battled back from health problems earlier in the season.

“(Nicolo) was sick for awhile, he had some problems during the middle of the season,” said coach Gonzalez. “But he got healthy and strong and he showed up and wrestled the best he has in his career. He scored the most points for our team. He was pinning everybody out there. I’m just so proud of how hard he wrestled.”

The future’s so bright …

It was a weekend for the ages for the Mustangs in Bakersfield. But many, including coach Gonzalez, are confident things will be getting even better for Gilroy wrestling.

There’s the fact that all four of Gilroy’s medalists are returning next year, as is the other qualifier for this year’s State Championships, sophomore 140-pounder Austin Gubrud. There’s the fact that the ‘Stangs have a pipeline of talent coming in to challenge the established wrestlers on the team via coach Gonzalez’s highly successful Gilroy Hawks youth wrestling program, South Valley Middle School’s terrific wrestling team and even from youngsters outside the area attracted to the success of the Mustang way.

What’s more, a quick scan of the top finishers in the four medalists’ divisions reveals a whole lot of 12-graders who will be moving on.

That’s got wrestling fans in Gilroy licking their chops at the prospect of even more top finishes in Bakersfield.

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