It’s like Christmas times 7 this week as the NCAA sent out their Golden Tickets, allocating spots for 278 out of 330 wrestlers who will be competing at the NCAA Championships later this month. Now, the athletes need to show they’re up to the task. They’ll do that by either winning their weight class at their Conference Tournament championships (10 weight classes, 7 conferences, so that’s 70 spots filled) or by (here’s where it gets a bit tricky) finishing in the next highest spot or spots (fill in the blank, the number is a variable) their conference was awarded at that particular weight class. How many spots are allocated to each weight class in each conference is a carefully calculated variable. One of the measurements is, obviously, the season long results of each wrestler in their own weight class and only for matches against other Division 1 opponents. Then there’s the R.P.I., the Ratings Percentage Index. The R.P.I. is a won-loss measurement carried out 3 levels deep. It takes into account a wrestlers record, his opponents records, and all their records. WHOA. But wait, theres more! There’s the Coaches Poll, where the votes from 14 Head Coaches (you hope), 2 from each of the seven conferences, are added up. Solve for X(3). Or, well, you get it. Its complicated, fairly accurate, and causes a lot more consternation and teeth gnashing than a Regional dog show or a Ms. Hawaian Tropic Bikini Contest.(1) In short, if “Conference A” wrestlers have a better cumulative rating than “Conference B” wrestlers, Conference A will get more automatic bids that their wrestlers can earn than Conference Bs wrestlers in that same weight class. Wait a minute…what if most or all of Conference Bs wrestlers, at whatever weight, beat Conference As wrestlers at that weight class if they competed head to head? No es importante, mi amigos y amigas, me v. you is a small part of this season long calculation of competence. It’s all about the season long competition unless it’s about what tournament or school your match was contested at, or when during the season the match was wrestled or, maybe, just maybe, a wee bit, that uniform you’re wearing or the conference your team is in. There’s bias in everything, but this is the methodology our sport has chosen for now. So here we go! The bid allocations for this season: BIG 10 Conference, 79; Big 12 Conference, 54; E.I.W.A., 44; MAC, 41; ACC, 35; PAC 12; 16, SoCon, 14. COME ON POST SEASON!
LOTS of interesting changes have and are affecting a whole lotta teams as the post season begins this week. Easily one, if not THE, biggest puzzle piece potentially missing is 3X AA, 2X National champ Zahid Valencia, as of this writing OUT of the lineup for Arizona State. Reasons currently remain more rumors than fact but theres no doubt that with him the Sun Devils are a Top 10 lock, with a good shot at an even higher finish. Without his 20+ team points ASU might miss the Top 20. Much the same situation exists at UNI, where the #Panthertrain has apparently lost 2018AA 197LB Jacob “Hog” Holschlag again, if not for good. In a year where every single Top 197LB wrestler not named Kollin Moore has looked monstrous to “meh” on multiple occasions, a healthy Holschlag was an AA, 15-20 point lock. Utah Valleys suffered mightily this year as well, with R12 wrestlers 165LB Demetrius Romero and 149LB Matt Findlay forced out of the lineup early this year. The Wolverines will be down double digits in the post season even with the return of 2018 R12 star and U.S. Greco Roman team contender Taylor Lamont, who stepped out of redshirt straight into a buzzsaw 133LB weight class. NC States Nick Reenan has been way off form all season long at 197 too, with few results and perhaps even less chance for a pre post season return to form. Stanfords star (And 1st team All Name Squad) 149LB Requir van der Merwe suffered an injury default loss mid February to a wrestler he had majored at the Southern Scuffle the first week of January. It’s a tough, tough sport, and there are many more examples each and every season of contenders falling by the wayside.
Franklin and Marshall was front and center at that fundamentally magnificent BBQ stop in N. Central San Antonio just a week or so back. Stopping by with appetites and leaving with smiles were 2 F&M ’17 graduates, Jonathan Meissner and Bradley Lanker. They both starred on the Diplomats Golf team, with Jonathan majoring in Environmental Studies and Bradley in Biology. They both were suprised and pleased by The Diplomats so far strong 2019-2020 campaign. It’s probably been quite enjoyable for long time (10 years) Head Coach Mike Rogers as well, especially after graduating 3 big time starters. Upper weight stars Paddy Quinlan, Phil Robilotto, and Antonio Pelusi took their 68 combined wins and late match heroics into the post graduate world, but F&M didn’t miss a beat. The Diplomats finished this year one win away from a .500 season and with some notable individual and team showings. One of their best came at their own David H. Lehman F&M Open. 4 Diplomats finished Top 6, with Will Gil, Noah Chan and Emmitt LiCastri all finishing “in odd numbers” with 3rd place showings. Gil, who notched 29 wins last season at 149, is nationally ranked wrestling down at 141 in his junior campaign. He’s equaled his 2019 win total and has the E I.W.A. (definite) and NCAA (HIGH possibility) tournaments yet to go. Chan can hit 20 wins with a break even effort at the E.I.W.A. Tournament, and Licastri, up at 165 for his last go round, is a sterling 26-10. The Grizzly bear sized hole at the end of the bench has, so far, been ably filled as well. Stepping in for the graduated Pelusi, a 3X National qualifier, is…another Pelusi. Brother Cenzo transferred from conference foe Drexel and has filled big bro Antonios very big shoes very ably, as his 20 win sophomore campaign has shown. The Diplomats should see their 3rd straight season of sending a competitor to the Nationals, and, possibly, more than 1. As to All American status, that may be another lofty goal for F&M to aspire to…next season.
“CLARION”, SAID SOME EXPERT SOMEWHERE….
The Open Mats Earl Smith. Yeah, him again. Few, including this author, saw much promise for the Golden Eagles this year. Last year, 7-7, with 6 losses by double digits, including 2 30 plus point beat downs. Injury liked what it saw in insult and the Golden Eagles saw their back to back hammers at 141 and 149, Taylor Ortz and Brock Zacherl, go down and out for the year in one day. Only RS Senior Evan DeLong made his way to Nationals, and the Golden Eagles finished their team season in 6th place out of 7 at the 44th and final EWL tournament. Well, time to scrape the predatory droppings off the ball cap and give full credit to the 10-6 (7-4 in the now much tougher MAC) Eagles of 2020. Coach Keith Ferraros squad had an 8 match win streak, finished mid pack at the CKLV, and beat in state rivals Edinboro, Lock Haven, and Bloomsburg in the same season for the 1st time in 18 years. All this accomplished with only 2 20 win starters, 197LB Greg Bulsak and 6th year 149LB Brock Zacherl, and with a 7-6 mark from 141LB mainstay Taylor Ortz. More on Bulsak next week, but you need to know that with 4 more wins Zacherl will tie Clarion legend Kurt Angle with 116 victories. One more positive post season note: Zacherl, Bulsak, and 285LB Ty Bagoly are a sterling 29-4 against conference foes this year.(2)
FIRST HAND FORUM-TX HS COACHES POST SEASON POINTS
At that comfy and cool BBQ stop in N. Central SA on Blanco Road(3) the genesis for a TX HS coaches sounding board came up. A format was developed and 5 questions were sent to over a dozen local coaches. Here, in their own words, unedited, is a TX HS wrestling season recap.
1. In you and your staffs measurements was your teams season a success, and how so?
HEAD COACH TIM CLARKSON, SMITHSON VALLEY RANGERS— In terms of total wrestlers, we were still growing the last week of the season. We finished with 70 total in our program and kids are still approaching us. This means that our kids are excited and they are selling what we do every day. With only 7 wrestlers our girls took 1st in the district and 3rd in the region. That said, most of our returning girls are still beginners and need to grow.
HEAD COACH EMILIO GARZA, S.A. LUTHER BURBANK BULLDOGS—
As a first year program and taking over the team late in the season, I would say yes and no. Yes, to the fact that we placed 2nd as a boys team within our district in the inaugural year, which helped our returning athletes mindset and confidence going into the offseason. As selfish as this sounds, the competitor in me says no, only for the fact that we did not get an athlete on the state podium. However, we did get a true state qualifier this year. I know that sounds absurd, mainly because it’s our first year (in U.I.L. wrestling) but I have the utmost confidence in our athletes that it can be done competitively year in and year out. I want to hold the program to a high standard, thus (building and) upholding a winning tradition. A tradition that this community on the Southside of San Antonio deserves and needs. Please do not assume that I only care about winning. I believe that as a Coach we are supposed to care for, love, mature and educate our athletes on the essentials of life. Teach them what a strong work ethic can do for you, doing right for others as well as yourself, and always being accountable. So, yes and no.
HEAD COACH JODY ODOM, S.A. LEE HS—Yes, the size and skill of our team increased. This year our Junior Varsity team was the largest it has ever been and produced the best results at the district tournament. Our varsity lost several veterans to graduation last year which led to many sophomore wrestlers and one freshman heavyweight stepping up to the varsity level sooner rather than later. Though the season results for the boys were not great as a team, almost everyone is coming back next year with the experience, knowledge and skills developed this year at a high level. Our girls team qualified 5 to Regionals and had one state placer. Our boys team qualified 3 for Regionals, 2 for State and an alternate, and 1 state placer. The girls team had a 2X District Champion and now Regional Champion. The Boys team now has a 2X District Champion and 2X Regional Champion and produced a new District and Regional Champion.
HEAD COACH ANDREW DUARTE II, S.A. KAREN WAGNER HS—Our team was successful this year not for sending two members of the team to the state meet, but by having members of our team step up and become leaders on campus not just in athletics. Our team not only took accolades for their athletic (endeavors) but also for having a member of the Academic All-District team.
2. How was the needle moved this season towards improving our sport this year in our city/area/state? If it, in your opinion, was not, what can be done?
CLARKSON—There are individual standouts who represented us well at the state level-they are great kids and wrestlers. Other school districts need to pick up the sport so that the wrestling community can spread and create more opportunities for the youth. The Dallas districts have now funded and staffed middle school programs-it’s going to be hard to keep up.
GARZA—I believe we have some of the best coaches in the state in our city of San Antonio. Not to mention some pretty amazing Club teams that help promote wrestling as much as possible. I just hope that more high schools in our area decide to get wrestling as a part of their athletic programs very soon. The more teams in our area the better for our wrestling community.
ODOM—Locally, moving the District tournament to Blossom Athletic Center was fantastic because it gave the tournament more credibility. We also had KSAT TV there covering the Finals which was huge for our visibility. Teams in our area continue to grow and new programs are starting every year. Participation state-wide continues to grow and we had more coverage of the state tournament by our local news team and Regional Fox team this year.
DUARTE II—When our state has the most wrestlers participating, we are taking steps in the right direction. U.I.L. has done a phenomenal job of promoting our sport, even setting up different ways to view the State Wrestling meet.
3. Please give your perspective on the best and the most challenging thing you and your team experienced this post-season.
CLARKSON—The best thing was relevance. Our young boys team won 5 out of their last 7 duals….confidence was gained. Our girls as always were strong and continue to bring home hardware. The most challenging thing to overcome was youth and inexperience followed by injuries. We only had 4 returning juniors. We didn’t get two of our best wrestlers back until mid-season and lost another because of injury in another sport. We had to stick lots of beginners into the fire quickly.
GARZA—Lack of experience. My state qualifier has only been wrestling for 3 to 4 months. Same with the rest of the team. We are taking our lumps so we can hopefully get better and be better and more competitive. Starting a program from scratch takes work, fun but a lot of work.
ODOM—Getting two wrestlers on the podium at the State Tournament was a huge success for our program this year. I don’t think LEE has had a boy and girl on the podium at the State Tournament before. Most challenging thing we experience is high level practice partners, especially during State week because of other sports starting (baseball and track) for our non-qualifiers.
DUARTE II—This year we had two brothers make the State Tournament which was pretty phenomenal.
4. Whom, and what successes, both team and individual, may we highlight from your season?
CLARKSON—Sage Benca, 10th. 48 wins, District Champ, 2X Regional Champ, 2X State Qualifier. 2019 State Freestyle Champ. Bella Ruiz, 12th. District Champ, 3rd, Region 4, 3X State Qualifier, 2019 State Greco Roman Champ. Molly Moczygemba, 12th. District Champ, 3rd, Region 4, State Qualifier. Zarek Holley, 11th, Ryan Benca, 11th, and Kobe Mora, 12th, 1st ever boys to qualify for State.
GARZA—In Luther Burbanks inaugural year the Boys team took 2nd place in District 14, 5A. Matthew Salazar became the first ever State qualifier (in Burbank H.S. history) at the 195LB weight class. 12 boys and 2 girls qualified for Regionals.
ODOM—Crystal Venegas, 10th. 2X District Champion, Regional Champion, 4th place at State at 110 LBS. Austin Hartmangruber, 10th. 2X District and Regional Champion, 145 LBS. Adam Bell, 12th. District Champion, Regional Champion, and 4th place at State at 220 LBS.
DUARTE II—Boys District Champions Sebastian Pacheco, 113LBS, Quentin Owens, 170LBS. (Newcomer of the Year also). Girls District Champion, Yadhira Lerma, 185LBS, Academic All-District as well. Regional Qualifiers: Boys, Sebastian Pacheco, Arturo Ostiguin, 132LBS, Matthew Pacheco, 145LBS, Lorenzo Esparza, 152LBS, Quentin Owens. Girls, Victoria Pacheco, 165LBS, Yadhira Lerma. State Qualifiers: Sebastian Pacheco, (Eliminated 3rd Round, Consolations Bracket, Matthew Pacheco, State Alternate.
5. In five years Texas wrestling, at the scholastic level, will be _________
CLARKSON-still growing and evolving. I hope that the schools in Region 4 can someday mount a challenge across the board to the other Regions.
GARZA—be one of the top wrestling states in the country. (Wrestling) will continue to grow all over the state as more schools which traditionally did not have wrestling will now create programs. Should be very fun. My hopes are to win a team district and Regional Championship with the Girls and Boys team in the near future. (We will) hopefully have multiple State placers in the years to come. That’s for sport. In terms of life, I hope all of my athletes here at Burbank become very successful adults. Adults that this Southside community can be proud of.
ODOM—more competitive, more visible, and more popular.
DUARTE II—will be on par with the other major sports. Meaning we will be signing athletes to continue their wrestling careers at the next level. I would also love to see wrestling implemented at the middle school level.
See you next week!
(1) Having been fortunate enough to have watched many of one and judged one of the other, it can honestly be said they’re all winners. Especially if they’re Aussies. Both the dogs and the bikinis.
(2) Outstanding news, notes and features about Clarion are accessible all year long from their website, excellently coordinated on the wrestling (and for 7 other sports as well!) by SID Sean Fagan. Thank you, Mr. Fagan, and should you come to San Antonio, theres a BBQ plate with your name on it.
(3) At that one particular BBQ restaurant, BTW. Which one? Look for the HUUUGE parking lot, Big ole Oaks, 2, count em, 2, dog friendly patios, and a parade, not a line, of happy customers. Just sayin.