Joel Guerrero holds the feet of Gilbert Gutierrez as the team

GHS wrestling squad boasts 10 grapplers ranked in the section’s
top six, awaits Jan. 15 meet vs. rival Hollister.
GILROY – Looking up and down the Gilroy High varsity wrestling team’s line-up is just plain scary. With 10 grapplers ranked in the section’s top six preseason poll, the early favorite Mustangs are the team to beat this year.

“They competed as sophomores and juniors last year. This year they’re becoming men. It’s a whole new ball game,” fifth-year head coach Armando Gonzalez said. “We’re so mature. Last year we took a lot of lumps. We did as well as I thought we would do.

“But this year we have a squad that can go into CCS and compete for the title. We can do it this year as a squad. We can compete in league and for a CCS title.”

And that’s no joke.

Junior John Gurich – ranked No. 1 in CCS and seventh in the state – returns to the mat after placing fourth in the section during his stellar sophomore campaign.

“He did a lot of great things in the offseason,” Gonzalez said. “He wrestled in Oklahoma in the Association Duals. He wrestled in Fargo, North Dakota for the Nationals. He’s just getting a lot of good experience during the offseason.”

Senior Adam Ruiz – ranked fifth in the section – is back for more following a bruising junior season where he placed sixth in Gilroy’s coveted Mid-Cals Invitational.

“Adam should be top three, top four in CCS this year. Adam has put in a lot of work in the offseason. He’s a great kid,” Gonzalez said. “Adam just had the bad luck of wrestling seeded wrestlers in his first match every tournament last year. But this year he’s come in more focused and more dedicated than I’ve ever seen. He’s working harder than ever.”

Junior Chad Haygood – a three-year varsity grappler – also returns to the line-up along with senior Andrew Rauss – who enters his fourth varsity season ranked fourth in CCS.

“(Haygood) is very, very disciplined and well-versed. He had a bad draw at sections last year. Otherwise, he would have definitely placed,” Gonzalez said. “I think Andrew (Rauss) is going to do very well. He has a very solid shot at going to state this year as well. He’s a senior. He’s mature. He’s a leader on our squad. He’s doing great.”

As Gilroy’s top grappler last season, junior Gilbert Gutierrez placed third in Mid-Cals, second in league, second at the Overfelt Tournament and third in the Cupertino Tournament.

“He’s a very solid kid. He’s probably ranked second in CCS right now,” said Gonzalez of Gutierrez. “He’s going to be a definite section placer and, hopefully, a state qualifier, too. Gilbert, I have high hopes for him to do well at the state level, too.”

Ranked No. 1 in the section to open the season, junior Mark Zabala – who was the starting linebacker for the varsity football team – is back and hungrier than ever. Zabala – an intimidating, perfectly-sculpted grappler – placed second in the state over the summer.

“He’s put in tons of work in the weight room and on the mat. I think Mark is a good bet for a state medal this year as well,” Gonzalez said. “Mark is a smooth wrestler, great technician. He’s becoming the complete package and his work ethic this year is unbelievable. I’m excited for him.”

Junior Callan Romesberg has been working out with junior teammate Miguel Maldonado throughout the summer and the two returning varsity grapplers are expected to be forces in their respective weight classes.

“Over the summer, (Romesberg) worked very hard. He placed fifth in the freestyle state this summer. He is going to be the dark horse. People have no idea how good he is,” Gonzalez said. “(Maldonado) too has paid his does. He went 3-2 at CCS last year so anything better than that is going to be a medal and he’s poised to do that.”

There’s even more talent in the Gilroy line-up with the return of junior Nick Fortino and senior Martin Serrano. In addition, senior Brian Lopez is working out with the team.

“(Fortino) is coming off a broken wrist which he suffered in football. He was my 60-pounder last year as a sophomore. He took a lot of lumps. He worked all summer long. He’s very strong,” Gonzalez said. “(Serrano) is battling for a spot on this squad as well.”

Freshmen phenoms Adin Dueñas and Armando Gonzalez are welcomed additions to this year’s varsity unit.

“Adin is a three-time freestyle state finalists and a three-time Santa Clara County Champion and a three-time Tournament of Champions placer,” Gonzalez said. “In any other program, Adin would be hands down a starting varsity wrestler and, with us, we’re just trying to work out the kinks.”

Before even taking the mat for his first varsity bout, Gonzalez – the coach’s son – is ranked fourth in the section.

“Armando is a five-time freestyle state champion, a four-time national placer and three-time county champ and a three-time Tournament of Champion placer as well as a two-time champion there,” said Gonzalez of his son.

Transferring over from Oak Grove High School is senior Danny San Juan – who was one point away from placing in the section last year.

“Danny has done great work all summer long and I am confident that he will be top three in the section and a state qualifier,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a great one, real tough, very, very good addition.”

Senior Ryan Reynaud – the Mustang football team’s top defensive player – has come out for the squad with some past wrestling experience.

“Ryan is a football stud. He’s an animal. He’s a hardworking kid. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s learning right now the ins and outs of wrestling,” Gonzalez said. “In those upper weights, it’s the good athletes who go a long way and Ryan’s definitely a great athlete and he’s going to do a lot for us.”

The only hole in the Mustang line-up is at heavyweight. Gilroy – which graduated Eli Dueñas last year – has yet to find a solid heavyweight to solidify its unit.

“I just couldn’t get a heavyweight to come out for the squad so we’re going to go into Hollister and give them six points,” said Gonzalez, who is looking at a couple of junior varsity wrestlers to come up and fill the spot.

The coaching staff – which includes Gilroy High alums Chris Delgado and Greg Varella as well as All-American Oscar Gonzalez Jr., a Independence High grad, and Mike Koester – is already thinking ahead to the well-anticipated rivalry match against the defending CCS Champion Hollister Haybalers.

“January 15, we’ll wrestle Hollister over in Hollister. Last year we had an exciting match here. They were the CCS Champs and I think they can tell you as well as anybody that we definitely gave them their most competitive dual meet of the year,” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t really matter who is the better team on paper. We always show up and fight each other toe-to-toe.

“I expect Hollister to be just as good as every other year that I’ve been here,” he added. “I just hope this year that we have the strength and we’re the team that’s going to come out on top.”

Since the Mustangs’ scheduled Dec. 11 dual meet against Monterey has been postponed, the garlic grapplers will open up in the Santa Cruz Coast Classic Dec. 20-21 and then its off to Reno, Nevada for the Dec. 27-28 Sierra Nevada Classic. Gilroy’s first home match is January 8 at 7 p.m. against Live Oak – which defeated the Mustangs by one point last season.

“This year is really the hump year because next year we are going to have so many solid individuals on this squad,” Gonzalez said. We’re just going to be really tough to keep out of the top three.”

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