Prep Wrestling: Lucky No. 13

Gilroy's Alex Felix wrestles with Silver Creek during their 132-pound Central Coast Section championship match at Independence High School in San Jose Feb. 28. Felix won with a 7-1 decision.

SAN JOSE—After graduating six standout seniors last year, this season’s young Gilroy team knew it would have to rebuild. As it turned out, the Mustangs didn’t need much time; construction is well ahead of schedule.
And they’ve got the hardware to prove it. 
Gilroy claimed its 13th consecutive CCS title Saturday at Independence High, steamrolling its way through the tournament to tally 282 points and beating the record it set last year. Six Gilroy wrestlers claimed individual titles—two coming from freshmen Nick Aguilar (106) and Alex Felix (132)—and set a new CCS record for having nine reach the finals in the process. Jesse Delgado (126), Mark Penyacsek (170), Matt Penyacsek (195) and Noe Garcia (220) all placed first for the Mustangs. With 10 medalists, CCS felt more like a dual meet for Gilroy than a sectional tournament.
Even head coach Greg Varela brought home some hardware as he was named the CCS Honor Coach for building a “gold standard program” during his 13 seasons with the team.
But even with the team’s storied history of success, Varela was still in shock at the tournament’s results.
“If someone would’ve told me that we were going to break the record the year after Nikko (Villarreal), Paul (Fox), Victor Olmos, Lupe (Jimenez) and all those guys are gone, I would’ve been like ‘no, we’ll be good, but not that good’,” Varela said. “For that to happen for these kids, it’s their mark. It’s their time…I didn’t see that coming.”
The night was just as special for Christopher’s Alex Garcia, who earned his first CCS title at 160 pounds. The senior crushed Fremont’s Dominick Huerta with a 24-9 tech fall in the championship.
“It feels good to be the best out of my section, but I still have to aim high for state,” the newly minted champ said. “This is just a warm-up to get me ready for state.”
Alex Garcia, who placed sixth at state last year, won’t be making the trip to Bakersfield alone. Freshman Riley Siason (106) and senior Jacob Myers (152) both earned state berths with third place finishes at CCS. This is the first time CHS has sent three wrestlers to the California Interscholastic Federation state competition.
“For us to take three state qualifiers, that’s awesome; we’re excited,” Cougar coach Alecxis Lara said. “All three of them have a really good chance at placing… All of them are really confident right now.”
Gilroy’s Noe Garcia fell just shy of a state berth last year, placing fourth in CCS. He had one of the closest matches of the night, edging out Half Moon Bay’s Marcos Sarabia with a last second stalling call to win 3-2.
But even after the victory, the Mustang said he wasn’t satisfied. He said he’ll use this week to prepare for the tough competition he’ll face at the CIF meet.
“That last match, I feel like I could’ve done a lot better. I’m happy to go to state, happy to be a CCS champion,” Noe Garcia said. “I’m just going to get back in the room on Monday and start all over again.”
Two Mustangs earned their crowns by fall. Mark Penyacsek wasted no time earning his title, pinning Leigh’s Ryan Cummings with 23.2 seconds left in the first period. Vasquez claimed the 126 crown by pinning Gio Zacarias of Aptos at 2:41.
Gilroy’s three freshmen shined in their inaugural sectional tournament.
Aguilar easily claimed the 106-pound championship, winning by a 16-0 tech fall over Roberto Ortiz of Everett Alvarez. Two takedowns, an escape and two near falls gave him a dominant 11-0 lead after two periods. He shut the door with another takedown and near fall in the final frame.
Felix beat Sebastian Marin of Silver Creek in the 132 final 7-1. He secured his opponent’s arms and legs, keeping him face down for almost the entire third period. The freshman was all smiles following his win and said it gives him confidence for his first trip to state.
“It’s pretty fun and we broke the record this year, so that’s pretty cool,” a beaming Felix said. “(For state) I just have to listen to my coaches more and just run more and get better conditioned; lift more, too.”
Delgado was just shy of making it a title sweep for the freshman. He led Santa Teresa’s Ray Carroll by four points late in the in second before his opponent scored a reversal, cutting the lead to 5-3. Two stalling penalties tied the match at 5-5 at the end of regulation and neither was able to score in the first OT period. Carroll scored an escape and was awarded another point for stalling to edge out the Gilroy freshman for the title.
“They’re battle-tested. I wouldn’t say they’re freshmen in the sense of experience. They’ve been around, they’ve traveled together and show a lot of poise,” Varela said. “I think a little bit in the finals you could see their inexperience in that setting… It could’ve been a lot worse and we’ve had a lot worse happen. I’m proud of them…the sky is the limit for them.”
Gavin Melendez (120) and Tony Andrade also took second for Gilroy and will compete at the CIF state tournament, which kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. Victor Daza narrowly missed the cut with a fifth place finish at 138. Live Oak’s Adam Mito also took home the title at 145 pounds.
With 13 area wrestlers competing, the odds of more titles are in the South County’s favor.
“We’ve got to be smart with the way we handle ourselves this week,” Varela said. “The state tournament isn’t always the strongest (wrestlers) or the best technique. It comes down to (the fact that) the whole tournament is so mentally draining. They’ve just got to ready mentally for that marathon, that long, long, ride. If we can do that, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

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