How’s that for a sweet 16?
Gilroy High School won its unprecedented 16th straight Central Coast Section Wrestling Championship last Saturday at Independence High School In San Jose, with a record-breaking 10 wrestlers earning first-place honors. That helped the team accumulate a record-breaking score of 373.5 points.
Three records, 10 individual winners, another CCS title. The question has to be asked: Is this the best squad in Gilroy High history?
“I don’t want to disrespect our past teams, but it’s looking like this is the best team we’ve had yet,” Mustangs coach Greg Varela said. “We were just trying to break 300 points, and we almost got 400. We broke the champion’s record, which used to be seven, and we got 10. That’s something that we’ve been chasing for a long time. We got work to do to get ready for next week at the state finals. That will be our Super Bowl.”
The California Interscholastic Federation State Championships begin on Friday at Rabobank Areana in Bakersfield. It’s a place many of the Mustangs are familiar with. Gilroy’s winner list resembled a mini phone book, and included a Jayden Gomez (106 pounds), Nic Aguilar (120), Chase Saldate (126), Alex Felix (132), Daniel Vizcarra (138), Nathan Villarrreal (145), Johnny Fox (152), Joe Barnes (160), Tony Andrade (195), and Nick Villarreal (285).
Gomez, the top seed in the 106-pound weight class, started off the championship matches against No. 3 seed Javier Torres of Live Oak High. Gomez won by a comfortable 8-1 decision.
“I’ve been watching Gilroy wrestling since I was a little kid, and it’s a dream come true to win CCS,” Gomez said. “We’re going after a state title, but we don’t want to be cocky. We’re humble, but if anyone is going to do it, it’s us.”
Rutgers University-bound senior Nic Aguilar, who was the top seed at 120, won by fall at the 4:36 mark over No.3 seed Riley Siason of Alvarez.
“It all goes back to practice, and what I’m doing in the room,” Aguilar said. “It’s a whole mental state.”
Chase Saldate won 14-6 by major decision against Andrew Wong of Palo Alto in the 126-pound division. Saldate, haunted by a loss in the semifinals last year, was leery of letting up on his opponent.
“I was a little nervous based on last year,” he said. “We totally think we’re the best team Gilroy High has had, and with 11 finalists, it feels great.”
In the 132-pound class, Alex Felix, a senior who will wrestle at Ohio State University, put his on power on display, defeating his opponent 25-10 at the 4:59 mark.
“I’m in the room every single day grinding it out, and there’s no point why I can’t do what I did today every time,” Felix said. “It means a lot for me to come out here in my senior year and shatter the 300 (points) record. Gilroy is not to be messed with.”
Of that, there is no doubt. Daniel Vizcarra had a tougher time with his opponent in the 138-pound final, prevailing by a 4-0 decision over Palma’s Saul Gonzalez.
“He adapted to my style, but I just had to open up my shots and keep going forward,” Vizcarra said.
Nathan Villarreal, the top seed at 145 pounds, won a 7-0 decision over Salinas’ Alfredo Mendoza.
“I feel amazing right now, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Villarreal said. “I’ve been training for this since I was a little kid.”
Fox was involved in one of the closest matches of the championships, edging Pioneer’s Daniel Woo, 4-3, in the 152-pound title match. Barnes couldn’t score many points in his title match, but he didn’t have to as his defense was impeccable.
“It feels great to be a three-time CCS champ; you can’t beat that,” Barnes said after his 5-0 win over Marcos Jimenez of Evergreen Valley High. We’re setting the tone for future generations to beat what we did here today.”
In all, Gilroy had 11 wrestlers qualify for the finals, including Dallas Gutierrez, who came in unseeded, and ultimately finished second to Alvarez’s Ben Perez after being pinned at 3:25 in the second period.
“I feel like could have wrestled better, but I’m happy the way the tournament went,” Gutierrez said. “I was unseeded, but I beat the three kids who were in front of me on the mat. I did what I was supposed to do out there. It was hard being the unseeded one out there because I thought I had something to prove, but we are all supportive of each other, and we work very hard.”
In the 195-pound weight class, senior Tony Andrade was a powerhouse, defeating his opponent, Taniela Feliciano-Takafua 13-1 by major decision. It was hardly a surprise, as Andrade also ran roughshod over the competition last season.
“He was just trying to survive out there,” Andrade said. “I’m just going to train hard and keep up a positive mental attitude to get ready for state.”
It was a cross-town showdown as heavyweights Nick Villarreal and Christopher High’s Anthony Gomez collided on the mat. Ultimately, Villarreal, described as a gentle giant by Varela, defeated Gomez 4-1, avenging a defeat to Gomez in the Monterey Bay League Finals three weeks ago.
“He caught me at the league meet a few weeks ago, but I knew during the match that if I was smart, I was going to win,” said Villarreal.
It was a disappointing finish for Gomez, but,he’ll have one more shot at high school wrestling glory at state.
“I feel like I could have trained a little harder and I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to do tonight,” said Gomez. “My goal was a CCS title. I did this last year, and I feel like I should have progressed, but that didn’t happen tonight, but, I’m going to state, and I have that to look forward too.”
Nathan Aguilar also qualified for state with a third-place showing at 113 pounds. Aguilar won a 7-3 decision to earn a state berth.