The weekend was a learning experience for the Del Norte wrestling team.
The Warriors split up on Saturday, sending five of their top wrestlers to Santa Rosa for the hyper-competitive Maria Carillo Tournament. The rest of the team stopped in Willits for a junior varsity tournament.
In Maria Carillo, none of the Warriors was able to place, but four came within one win of reaching the podium.
"None of those kids got beaten badly," said Del Norte head coach Aaron Schaad. "All those kids that lost, would have placed and we lost in overtime or by 3 or 4 points. So that is where we are at. We have four or five kids that are possibly capable of placing at the section tournament, but we are going to have to win those battles."
Willie Gensaw, Robin Pierce, Hawk Mattz, Eric Turner and Chris Puente all competed and they all won at least one match.
Gensaw won his first match at 108 pounds, but he ran into top-seeded Jordan Aquina of Vacaville, who is ranked 21st in the California Interscholastic Federation at 108 pounds.
"It was a great experience for us to wrestle a kid of that caliber," Schaad said.
"You can learn a lot of things in the room and you can drill with your partners and stuff like that, but he hasn't seen anybody like that at any other tournament. He was very physical and he had very good technique."
Robin Pierce competed at 147 pounds and ran into perhaps the best wrestler in the entire tournament in the second round, Hayden Fry, who is ranked seventh in the CIF at 147.
"The kid kind of outclassed him with technique," Aaron Schaad said. "You could tell that Fry has been wrestling for a long time and this is Robin's second year, but it was good. I told him, 'From here on out, you aren't going to wrestle anybody that is any better than that, so go out there and mix it up."
Mattz started out the day a little slowly. Mattz was the fifth seed at 152 pounds but he struggled in the first round before regrouping in overtime for the win. In his second match, Mattz ran away with a 13-2 victory. Mattz then lost in the quarterfinals in overtime and fell in his final match to finish 2-2 overall.
"There were some little things that Hawk wasn't doing. We talked about it and hopefully we can start drilling those little things a little harder."
Eric Turner picked up a win by fall in the first round at 172 before running into Alex Bazan of Freedom. Bazan qualified for state last year and finished third in the North Coast Section at 160 pounds. Schaad thought Turner and Bazan were wrestling pretty evenly until Turner got caught in a scramble in the second period and ended up getting pinned.
"I don't know if Eric had seen him wrestle before, but he knew that he was tough... I asked him after the match how he felt about it and he said, 'It felt good.' He was wrestling well with him and that is a top caliber kid."
Chris Puente was the only Warrior to lose in the first round, but rebounded with a win by fall in his next match. Puente finished 1-2 overall at 220 pounds.
"They each wrestled high quality kids and they wrestled at a higher level than what they have been wrestling at," Schaad said. "I will take that rather than a win against somebody that you aren't learning anything against. They had to earn their points."
The rest of the wrestlers enjoyed plenty of success at Willits.
"The kids wrestled well, I think they had a lot of fun and we got a lot of matches in," said Del Norte assistant coach Clinton Schaad, who spent the day with the JV in Willits. "Some of these kids are underclassmen and they had a lot of success down there."
Nicole Mattz, Colson Turner and George Jobb all won the title at their respective weight classes.
Justin Schrader, Caleb Hendon, Tanner Gensaw and Roberto Aguilar also advanced to the finals, but finished second overall. Adan Brambila and Tristan Holmes both took third place as nine of the 10 Warriors that traveled to Willits ended up placing.
"We didn't have some of our seniors there that normally lead the team," Clinton Schaad said. "It was good to see some of the underclassmen develop their own leaders and work together."
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.