Commentary: Gilroy High wrestlers pin GPAs

Gilroy's Mark Penyacsek wrestles during a 170-pound match at the California Interscholastic Federation state meet Friday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.

Gilroy High’s wrestling program put up plenty of impressive numbers this season.
Eleven: The number of consecutive Central Coast Section team titles won by the Mustangs, and the place the team finished at the California Interscholastic Federation state meet.
Two: The number of state titles in a row won by Gilroy junior 138-pounder Nikko Villarreal.
But the most impressive number of all: 3.3977. That’s the Mustangs’ collective grade-point average, good for a CCS Winter Scholastic Championship Team Award.
“We do mandatory study hall,” Gilroy coach Greg Varela said. “My dad’s been teaching for 40 years. He does the study hall for us.
“I wanted the academic championship. Next year’s our year – we’re going to win it next year.”
The CCS academic awards went to the top five varsity teams in each winter sport Feb. 25, so the academic team “title” is unofficial. Saratoga won with a team GPA of 3.4068, topping second-place Gilroy by 0.0091.
But Varela’s mix of pride in his team’s academic performance and genuine goal of being No. 1 in the classroom next season is beyond refreshing.
The big-business culture of club and travel athletics corrupts youth sports, using an endless stream of tournaments to extort parents and show kids that scholarships are attained through sports first, academics second.
At Gilroy High, wrestling is an undeniable passion. But there’s a lot more to these Mustangs.
“(Varela) really wants us to push hard in academics,” said Gilroy junior Paul Fox, the state runner-up at 132 pounds. “His main goal is to get us into college, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Fox should know. He has a 4.0 GPA, according to his CIF biography. Varela said seven current Gilroy wrestlers have GPAs of at least 4.0.
“They’ve grown up together and been brainwashed. From a young age, they’ve been thrown out of the (wrestling) room when they don’t get good grades,” Varela said.
In the Era of Athlete Self-Promotion, the Mustangs are seldom heard from.
They’re probably too busy hitting the books.