Thirty-eight former Gilroy High wrestlers and coaches were honored prior to Wednesday night’s Tri-County Athletic League dual meet against San Benito, and the Mustangs proceeded to treat the alumni to a glimpse of the now with a dominating 64-12 victory under the spotlight at GHS.
“It feels good to be able to show them what wrestling has become since they left,” said GHS senior Willie Fox, who is California’s No. 1-ranked 145-pounder. “I didn’t know all of those guys were on the team at one time. It’s just so cool because I see them around all the time, and it’s cool to know that they still hang around and support us.”
The alumni group, which spanned the late 1950s to 2011, was introduced by GHS principal Marco Sanchez and applauded by an appreciative fan base, included: One of the Gilroy wrestling community’s figureheads, Bert Mar, Charlie Morales, the founder of the Gilroy Hawks, three-time state placer Sergio Mar, Chuck Ogle, Bob Kampa and the program’s first state placer and state champion (1987) Kordell Baker.
“He was my hero growing up,” GHS head coach Greg Varela said of Baker, who had a career mark of 123-19, including two Mid Cals titles and a Central Coast Section championship.
“My dad used to take me to the duals and to Mid Cals just to watch him. It was great to have him and all of them out here tonight.”
On the mat it was all Mustangs, who swept the 10 matches in rousing fashion that were contested. San Benito’s 12 points came via forfeit. Gilroy, which maintained its No. 4 team-ranking in the state, picked up fall points in six of the 10 matches.
Sophomore Nikko Villarreal (No. 3 in the state at 138 pounds) built a commanding lead with take downs at will before getting the pin at the 5:27 mark of the third period. Fox followed suit with a 1:22 into the first period. Lupe Jimenez put the hometown crowd to the edge of its collective seat, trailing in the third period before locking in on a cradle move for his victory by fall. Mark Penyascek snuck in his fall win just before the first-period buzzer sounded in the 180-pound dual. Freshman Jesse Vasquez, who climbed to No. 3 among the CCS’s 106-pounds, went up a weight class Wednesday and delivered a pin in 49 seconds. Victor Olmos did Vasquez three seconds better in pinngin his opponent in the 128-pound match.
Matt Penyascek (170; 11-2 major decision), Frank Martinez (220; 7-3 decision after trailing 2-0 entering the third period), Victor Daza (106; 19-2 technical fall) and Aaron Gonzalez (134; 11-3 major decision) added to the wealth of team points for GHS.
“It’s all about confidence right now. Big wins like that help them find it,” Varela said. “At this point in the season, I feel better than I have in a long time. The guys are really gelling and have such positive attitudes. They are enthusiastic, fired up and going hard. And that showed.”
For the Balers, the loss wraps up their TCAL dual slate. Despite the one-sided developments, head coach Brian DeCarli said the Balers have plenty to take away from the evening as they prepare for the league finals in two weeks.
“The best thing about Hollister-Gilroy: This match prepares you for the postseason,” DeCarli said. “Usually its a little more competitive and both side get more out of it, but this year we both took different things away from this. For a lot of our guys, this was the first time they had a chance to compete in an environment like this. If you don’t answer the bell right away against a good team, it makes it tough.
“For us, we have a lot of upset kids right now, which is a good thing. It means they care and they are going to work to improve.”
The Mustangs are 5-0 in TCAL duals with one to go, and have the next week off from competition until the league finale against North Salinas. It will also serve as senior night.
“It’s the end of the season,” Fox said. “We are ready to go every time we come out now.”
• Led by coach Marty Serrano, Megan Nebesnick (189 pounds), Courtney Pipkin (98) and Jennifer Garcia (126) will participate in the third annual CCS Girls Wrestling Championships on Friday and Saturday at oak Grove High in San Jose.
Nebesnick as a sophomore last season finished runner-up. But with an 8-1 record, including two tournament championships, she is one of the favorites to earn a section title.
A record 165 athletes from 39 schools will be in the field. Wrestling begins at 4 p.m. Friday. The finals are slated for 6 p.m. Saturday.