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March 1, 2021

Prep Wrestling: Freshman shines on Senior Night

GILROY — It may have been Senior Night at Gilroy High, but it was a freshman that shined.
Mark Garcia, wrestling at 222 lbs., took just over a minute and a half to pin San Benito’s JJ Melo. Melo, a senior, is ranked No. 8 in the Central Coast Section but that didn’t intimidate the young Mustang who is ranked No. 10. The win came en route to a 49-25 team victory over the visting Balers Wednesday.
While he was confident on the mat, Garcia was reserved after the meet. He offered few words about his bout, instead he was just happy to help the team.
“With my coaching staff and all the training I do, I knew that I was going to be able to go in there and battle it out. I was hoping for the best,” Garcia said. “We were feeling pretty good and we just wanted to beat them (San Benito) tonight.”
That humble, team-first attitude is what landed the freshman the 222 lb. spot on the roster, Gilroy coach Greg Varela said. When offered the chance to compete for a lower weight class — a chance Varela said he thought Garcia deserved — he said he’d do whatever was best for the team, including wrestling up a couple weight classes.
“He (Garcia) just totally set aside his personal goals and said ‘What does my team need?’ and that’s what makes this team special, this program special,” Varela said. “The whole team is like that — we don’t have selfish guys. …It just shows in our freshman who go ‘No, my time will come. I’m not challenging anyone’ and then guys like him that will come out and wrestle a guy like that (Melo) and win. It doesn’t always work out for the good guy, but I hope it does. He’s a special kid and I couldn’t be happier.”
Gilroy’s seniors, however, were not outdone.
Out of the six seniors competiting four left victorious. Lupe Jimenez had one of the most exciting bouts of the evening with San Benito’s Jaime Aleman. Jimenez took a comanding 8-4 lead into the third period, but a series of takedowns and reversals saw Aleman get back within striking distance at 10-7. Jimenez was able to pick up three more takedowns before the time expired to win 16-9.
“I guess I was too excited when I went out,” Jimenez said. “It was the last match of the year, so I kind of went out there too overexcited so it costs me with some mistakes. I was able to figure out his style real quick, so I was able to get the advantage.”
Senior Paul Fox (160) started off the evening with a quick pin of Matt Baldwin to stay undefeated this season. Classmate Victor Olmos followed suit in the 132 lb. bout, pinning Anthony Wertz at 1:22. Undefeated and defending state champion Nikko Villarreal closed things out for the seniors to win by pin at 3:08, but not before displaying some complicated moves in front of his audiably excited home crowd.
While the victory was exciting for the Mustangs, it was bittersweet for their coach.
“You’re getting to the end here and it’s time for them to grow up,” he said. “They can’t stay my guys forever. It’s emotional for me because I know I’m going to miss these guys, but the awesome thing is that they’re all moving on to bigger and better things.
“It’s everything we’ve talked about growing up like setting their expectations for college — all of them are going to college. They’re all living out the dream we put in motion. It’s sad that they’re leaving, but it’s great to see that they’re living the dream that we set when they were babies.”
The Haybalers didn’t leave empty handed, however.
The closest bout of the evening was between San Benito’s Simon Coelho and Julian Carabjal. The match was scoreless heading into the final seconds when Coelho was able to get the near fall, picking up the points needed to win 3-0.
“It’s nice to come in here and get a win, first win against Gilroy at home. Every match is important, no matter who it is,” the Baler wrestler said. “He had a good underhook. He was moving pretty well throughout the match. He rode on top really well, so I couldn’t get out at all. That’s one of my problems is that I can’t get out. He was able to keep me down and hold me down the whole time. His defense was good.”
San Benito also got the ‘W’ in the heavyweight bout which saw Richard Justo pin Santino Orozco in the first period. The Balers also won the 126 lb. and 138 lb. matches by Gilroy forfeit.
Balers coach Brian DeCarli said he knew picking up wins against the historical tough Mustangs wouldn’t be easy, but was grateful for the test before the Monterey Bay League finals coming up Feb. 22 at Gilroy High.
“Hopefully our best wrestling is ahead of us,” DeCarli said. “The best thing about having Hollister-Gilroy is that we have it at the end of the year so there’s no better competition in this section in prepration for the postseason then getting to see them on the mat.”

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