By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

Out of hundreds upon hundreds of heavyweight wrestlers in California high schools, Del Norte High junior Roger andquot;Bronkandquot; McCovey stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The latest state wrestling rankings were released Thursday, with McCovey earning the No. 1 spot in his weight division (285).

Del Norte High head wrestling coach Aaron Schaad said that to the best of his knowledge, this is the first time any Warrior individual or team has been ranked No. 1 in the state.

andquot;He's earned that spot,andquot; Schaad said.

andquot;It feels good knowing you've been ranked the best after all that hard work,andquot; McCovey said. andquot;I just got to stay on top now.andquot;

Unlike most California prep sports, where schools are divided by enrollment size, wrestling has no divisions. That means a student from a school of only 200 could face a grappler from a high school with 4,500 students, which makes McCovey's top ranking that much more impressive.

andquot;This is a good milestone,andquot; Schaad said. andquot;He's got to feel good about it.andquot;

But, he noted, McCovey still has more wrestling immediately ahead.

This weekend, he and his teammates will be at the North Coast Section Dual Championship in Windsor. In upcoming weeks there will be the Humboldt-Del Norte Conference Championship and the NCS individual championship. If McCovey places in the NCS, as expected, he will make it to state for the second year straight.

The state tournament will be held in Bakersfield on Feb. 29 and March 1.

Being in the top spot, now people expect him to win, Schaad said.

While this adds to the challenge, Schaad said McCovey has always been a disciplined, motivated wrestler who loves the sport, hates to lose and wants to be the best he can be.

andquot;I think it will inspire him to work harder,andquot; Schaad said. andquot;If you expect things from Roger, he usually delivers.andquot;

Previously, McCovey was at the No. 3 slot in the state. That all changed after he faced then-No. 1 Jonathen Zamora of Clovis High School in the championship match of last weekend's Mission San Jose Tournament in Fremont.

Both grapplers were unbeaten, with Zamora the favorite going into the match. He placed second in state last year.

McCovey proved he could handle the best wrestler in the state as easily as he had the rest of his opponents this season. He made quick work of Zamora, pinning him in the first period in front of a surprised Bay Area crowd.

McCovey, a humble and reserved teen of few words, said many people in the community have come up to him, congratulating him on his accomplishment at the Mission San Jose tournament.

After he beat Zamora, some members of the crowd approached him and asked for his autograph.

andquot;It's been cool,andquot; McCovey said.

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