Two weeks after breaking the points record in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League Finals, the Los Gatos High wrestling team continued its historic season with a second-place finish in the Central Coast Section Masters Finals Feb. 18 at Watsonville High.
The Wildcats established a program record with 228.5 points in the CCS Finals in finishing as the runner-up to champion Gilroy, which totaled 279 points. They also set a program record for placers (10) and State qualifiers (nine).
Los Gatos did it with a deep lineup that included individual CCS champions Antonio Rodriguez at 113 pounds, EJ Parco (145) and Dylan Pile (160).
Oleksandr Nyzhnyk placed second at 195 pounds and the team’s depth really showed as it had a bounty of third-place finishers in Joseph Pavlov-Ramirez (126), Peter Bowen (132), Timmy Murabito (138), Anthony Pavlov-Ramirez (152) and Om Shastri (220).
Lucas Pannell took fourth at 170 to round out the placers. The top three in each weight class advance to the CIF State Championships Feb. 23-25 at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield. Parco repeated as a CCS champion in dominant fashion, recording a 13-4 major decision victory over Palma’s Ethan Gonzalez in the 145-pound title match.
In six contested matches spanning the CCS Northern Regionals and the Masters Finals, Parco recorded three wins via pinfall—all in the first period—two technical fall wins and the major decision. Dominating would be an apt description of his performance.
“This year I’m a little more seasoned. I know my stuff better, more experience, my pace is better,” said Parco, who entered the week ranked No. 3 in the state in his weight class. “I was loose and focused on myself and what I needed to do in each match. I worked a lot over the summer on technique and hand fighting, and been doing a lot of extra work and getting my cardio up. … I love being a part of Los Gatos wrestling. My teammates are great, and our coach [Greg Varela] is one of the best coaches in the U.S.”
Pile, a sophomore, is fulfilling the great expectations Varela had for him upon entering high school. However, Pile’s entire freshman season was wiped out due to an injury, and Varela praised Pile for getting after it in rehab, in the wrestling room and in every aspect of the sport to become a championship athlete. Pile was involved in a tight contest with Gilroy’s Travis Grace, eventually winning by a 4-2 decision.
Pile trailed 2-0 early in the second period before scoring on a reversal later in the period to make it 2-2. The sophomore scored again on a reversal early in the third, then rode Grace out the rest of the period to victory. The two have proven to be the best in the CCS this season, which made for a tremendous contest.
“The match was tough,” said Pile, who is ranked No. 2 in the state. “He’s really strong so the key was avoiding all of his dive attacks. He kept shooting and shooting and I kept fending him off. He went after me but I just had a bigger gas tank and lasted longer. And riding on top was key, too. I’m really excited and it was awesome to win CCS.”
Freshman sensation Rodriguez, No. 2 in the state at 113 pounds, was facing a formidable opponent in Monta Vista’s Hayden Ancheta, ranked No. 5. Rodriguez beat Ancheta 3-1 in the Northern Regional final, then delivered a dominant performance in the Masters Final with a 4-0 victory.
Rodriguez scored on a takedown and reversal and was in control throughout. He never was close to allowing a takedown against a very tough opponent. Parco said it’s always a huge boost to a team to see a freshman display so many skills and compete at a high level.
“Antonio definitely brings a lot of good things to the team,” Parco said. “Especially seeing someone that young excel at that level.”
Parco and Pile are training partners and the two have definitely sharpened and toughened each other to win CCS and a possible podium finish at State. Pile definitely piled—no pun intended—on the CCS competition. In eight matches spanning the Regionals and Masters, Pile won six via pinfall and teched another opponent.
“I train with EJ everyday and we push each other really hard,” Pile said. “The Los Gatos wrestling room is great. I love it and it’s like a family.”