It’s been a storybook season for the Los Gatos High wrestling team, which set program and league records in winning the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League Finals on Feb. 4 at Mountain View High.
The Wildcats had champions in 11 of the 14 weight classes in scoring a tournament record 321.5 points to easily outdistance Fremont High of Sunnvale’s 225 points.
Los Gatos next competes in the Central Coast Section Northern Regional at Fremont High on Feb. 11, with the top eight wrestlers from each weight class advancing to the Masters Finals on Feb. 18 at Watsonville High.
Los Gatos champions in the SCVAL Finals included Antonio Rodriguez at 115 pounds, Joseph Pavlov-Ramirez (128), Peter Bowen (134), Timmy Murabito (140), EJ Parco (147), Anthony Pavlov-Ramirez (154), Dylan Pile (162), Lucas Pannell (172), Teddy Smith (184), Sasha Nyzhnyk (197) and Om Shastri (220).
Additional placers included Tyce Bowen (third at 122) and Colton Hernandez (sixth at 108). For the girls team, Bella Dondero took third place at 137 pounds. Wildcats coach Greg Varela said the league title performance underscored the program’s growth in being able to fill more weight classes.
“What stood out the most was the kids worked so hard to fill the spots,” he said. “We’re now in a place where there’s wrestle-offs from week to week to figure out who will be in the starting lineup. There’s depth to the team. Now we’re having guys beat each other for certain spots and have to go up weight classes and compete. So competition is good within the program, and that raises the stakes at all levels.”
Although the Wildcats have top-10 ranked state wrestlers in Parco, Rodriguez, Pile and Murabito, Varela has been equally proud of the wrestlers who aren’t as highly ranked but nonetheless equally important to helping the team score points and improve the competition within the wrestling room.
Pannell is a prime example of an athlete doing what it takes to help himself and his team win. The freshman competed at 160 pounds all season but won at 172 for the league finals because Pile went to 160s. All Pannell did was win his title match in triple overtime, scoring on an escape after riding his opponent out.
“In the finals, Lucas is probably giving up 10 to 12 pounds because he walks around probably 161, 162 pounds,” Varela said. “We’re making him eat, drink, just to make 165 so he can wrestle at 172, and he wrestled great. Any time you get a freshman in a big moment, you’re looking to see if he folds or lets the moment get the best of him. Well, the moment didn’t get the best of him. I’m watching him grow up right before my eyes. It’s good to see kids like that gut it out and raise their level this time of year.”
Varela also praised the efforts of Smith, a junior who was unseeded in the 184-pound bracket. Varela said Smith was wrestling up one to two weight classes as his walking weight is in the mid-160s. However, because Los Gatos is stacked in the middle weights, Smith’s best option to compete for a starting spot was in the 180s this season.
In the offseason, Smith spent plenty of time in the weight room and eating to gain weight.
“He’s made the most of his opportunity,” Varela said. “Teddy has worked so hard to get to where he’s at. He wasn’t a big star coming into the season and kind of got beat up but stuck with it. He spent a lot of time training in the offseason and still wasn’t a starter, but challenged for a spot basically one or two weight classes where he should’ve been and won it. He did great in the league tournament. He kept his composure and wrestled a smart match. When you’re giving up so much weight, you have to pick your spots when to shoot and he did that so well. So, I’m just really proud of Teddy for using his smarts and experience to win the league title.”
NOTE: The Bay Area Wrestling Dragons Wrestling Center is holding a four week beginner class which started Feb. 6 and runs through March 8. Classes are every Monday and Wednesday at Los Gatos High from 5-6pm. The cost is $200 with no monthly fees.BADWC is run by Varela, a two-time State Coach of the Year with 22 years of coaching experience. For more information or questions, contact Varela at [email protected].