Freshmen Armondo Gonzalez, facing right, and Adin Duenas
music in the park san jose

GHS grapplers win Sierra Nevada Classic; San Juan takes
GILROY – Senior Danny San Juan was mad all weekend. The 125-pound grappler was not keen on the idea of cutting more than 10 pounds before the Gilroy High wrestling team journeyed to Reno, Nevada for the Sierra Nevada Classic.

But he did, anyway.

And the end result was more than he could have imagined as the first-year Gilroy transfer via Oak Grove – who was unranked in the prestigious tournament – won six straight matches (three each day) en route to his squad’s lone weight class championship.

“Once I got there, I didn’t want to wrestle the whole time. It wasn’t until I got into the finals that I stopped being mad at my coaches,” said the soft-spoken San Juan, jokingly. “They would ask me after every match, ‘are you still mad at us?’ and I would tell them, ‘yeah, I’m still mad at you.”

Head coach Armondo Gonzalez and the rest of the Mustang staff knew San Juan had it in him to wrestle with the elite field – which encompassed six states and 89 high school programs.

“Danny San Juan was huge. He was our sole champion and he’s just improving week to week to week. Danny’s got great things ahead of him this year,” Coach Gonzalez said. “He’s still capable of placing in the state and should be a CCS finalist as well. He’s doing fantastic out there on the mat and here in the room.”

San Juan’s individual accolade was just the tip of the iceberg for the Mustang matmen last weekend as they defied the odds with only a 10-man line-up and climbed the ladder of the Sierra Nevada Classic to claim the tournament’s team championship.

“Going into the Sierra Nevada Classic, we were saying it would be nice to have a top 10 finish and, as the tournament started to go, after the second and third round, we were down in 16th place,” said Coach Gonzalez, whose squad finished with a tournament-high 173 team points. “But as the rounds got tougher the elite wrestlers came to the top and we continued to win. That’s where it started becoming pretty phenomenal.”

Although unranked in his 125-pound bracket, San Juan had the shortest road of any of his teammates – winning all six of his bouts, including a dramatic 10-9 victory over Junipero’s Rohaum Raji in the finals. Only one loss knocked a wrestler out of the championship bracket and set up a long, strenuous road in the wrestleback consolation bracket with the winner able to place as high as third.

Junior 130-pounder Chad Haygood and freshman 119-pounder Armondo Gonzalez were two garlic grapplers who met the challenge of the wrestlebacks. After winning his first bout and then dropping a 7-3 decision in the second round, Haygood rambled off eight straight victories, including a 7-4 win over Ripon’s Kenny White to claim third place.

“That’s a hard road back,” Coach Gonzalez said.

But Haygood enjoyed every minute of it.

“It was a good experience. It was one of the biggest tournaments we’ve been to and it’s the biggest one we go to all year,” Haygood said. “It was like one after another and another. I pinned the number one seed so that was pretty cool and the guy who beat me (White) I ended up beating him for third and fourth.”

Gonzalez – a first-year varsity grappler fresh out of South Valley Junior High – kept his unblemished record intact with four convincing decisions until a 7-3 semifinal loss to Poncho Manriquez, of Ukiah, that sent him into the wrestlebacks. Gonzalez did not skip a beat – winning by scores of 19-1 and 10-1 to claim third place.

“He is really, really wrestling good. I’m so pleased with him. He’s very solid, very basic. He makes no mistakes,” said Coach Gonzalez of his son, who holds a 17-1 record. “When he lost in the semis, he lost to a good wrestler. That’s all. He was in range of tying that match. He was down 5-3 in the third round and it could have gone either way. He just got caught.”

Junior 103-pounder John Gurich was the only other Gilroy grappler to reach his weight class championship match – winning five straight, including two by pinfall. But Gurich met a viable opponent in the finals – coming up on the losing end of a 5-3 decision to Foothill’s Brian Moreno.

“I have to say Johnny Gurich wrestled very well, wrestled almost to his potential. He was my only number one seed, but he ended up placing second. We thought he had a really poor match in the finals,” Coach Gonzalez said. “His opponent is 27-1 with only one loss to the number one ranked wrestler in the state, so he lost to a quality kid who he should have beat.”

With each individual victory, the wrestlers gain valuable team points and the further they go in the tournament the more team points are accumulated.

“To have six wrestlers place in the top four in that tournament was huge. That’s a lot of team points and it just says a lot for those individuals,” said Coach Gonzalez, whose squad already has two tournament titles and one second-place finish. “(The Sierra Nevada Classic) was the biggest tournament that we ever won and placing second in the Coast Classics was also huge.”

The Mustangs’ championship run was also generated from the fourth-place runs of freshman 112-pounder Adin Dueñas and junior 171-pounder Mark Zabala – who both reached the quarterfinals before suffering a loss.

Dueñas – another South Valley product in his first varsity campaign – finished with a record of 6-2, rattling off three straight in the wrestlebacks before bowing to Kirby Franklin, of McKinleyville, in the third-fourth place match.

“Adin Duenas just wrestled out of his head,” Coach Gonzalez said. “He wrestled great. He came back and wrestled a great tournament for a freshman or for any year and placed fourth.”

Zabala rolled into the quarterfinals with three consecutive victories until dropping a tight 3-1 decision to Corning’s Jason Hanley. The menacing grappler rebounded with three straight wins before again falling to Hanley in the fight for third.

“He had a great tournament,” said Coach Gonzalez of Zabala. “He wrestled really well and you just have to give credit to a good wrestler when you lose to somebody like that.”

Junior 140-pounder Gilbert Gutierrez – who normally competes at 135 pounds – fell one win shy of placing but not before he recorded three pinfalls with a 3-2 record.

“Gilbert Gutierrez, our seventh wrestler, could have done very well. He lost a really tough match. Had the bracketing been a little different I think Gilbert Gutierrez would have placed also,” Coach Gonzalez said. “So we could have easily had seven.

Mind you we are still wrestling without Callan Romesberg, Andrew Rauss, Miguel Maldonado and Nick Fortino. So when those boys come back we’re going to have more point grabbers for our CCS run.”

Senior 145-pounder Martin Serrano battled with the big boys and held his own – finishing with a 2-2 record, including a first-round pinfall in 1:30. In addition, senior first-year grappler Ryan Reynaud went 2-2 at 189 pounds and junior Jose Albarran notched one victory at 215 pounds.

“Ryan Reynaud, our rookie senior football player out for the program, is really doing well… He’s coming along and slowly learning the ways of wrestling,” Coach Gonzalez said. “Martin Serrano also had a good tournament. He won two matches for us. He went 2-2. All those guys who win two, three matches that helps us to the title.”

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