The Del Norte wrestling team exceeded even head coach Clinton Schaad’s expectations in its first tournament of the season and the Warriors only home tournament of the year — the Battle at the Border.
“It was a very successful day for us,” Schaad said. “I had big expectations but you don’t want to set them too high; you want to be realistic. I thought one or two champs, maybe three kids in the finals and four or five placers would be a pretty good day for us, but we ended up way above that. The kids wrestled really well.”
Del Norte finished with a total of 13 wrestlers placing in the top six in the first tournament of the year, led by six finalists in their respective weight classes, four tournament champions and both most outstanding wrestler honors.
Warrior sophomore Skyler Moore was selected as the most outstanding wrestler in the lower weights after pinning four straight opponents for the 132 pound championship. Senior Ta Tes Boulby was awarded the most outstanding wrestler award in the upper weights with two quick pins and a major decision in the finals for the 182 pound title.
“Every team gets one vote, so to have both outstanding wrestlers come out of Del Norte — one being a sophomore and one being a senior — is a great start,” Schaad said.
The Warriors ended up in third place in the team standings with 192 points, just 13 points behind second place Crater and only 21 points behind tournament champion Grants Pass. The Warriors did finish against all of the Humboldt-Del Norte teams in the first tournament of the year, however.
“Those are two good teams and two good programs, but they are not in our league,” Schaad said of Grants Pass and Crater, which have been the top two teams at the tournament over the past few years. “Out of the teams in our league it looks like we were the frontrunner today. I know not all of Fortuna’s team is here with the football team still playing, and Eureka is still moving some weights around, but it is a good introduction to the league to see where we are at.”
Boulby was able to fight his way back from a back injury that kept him off the mat all of last season. The 2014 and 2015 HDN league champion looked to be back in championship form in his first high school match in about 18 months, however.
“Those were his first matches back in over a year he was giving up a little bit of size, he was small for that weight class, but he worked hard and looked really good,” Schaad said.
He was solid and he was clean. He missed a year last year, but he has been doing this his whole life. He just had a really good day.”
In the championship round, Boulby’s fellow most outstanding wrestler, Moore, was pitted against senior teammate Demitry Mullen in the 132 pound championship.
“They are teammates and they both wrestled really well to get to the finals,” Schaad said. “Today Skyler had the upper hand. They are both leaders on the team and they both work really hard. It is good having those guys in the same room at practice. Plus all the weights around them will push each other. So everyone around them will just get better and better.”
One weight class below Moore and Mullen, sophomore Blake Allen put together a dominant day with three pins to reach the finals, where he picked up a victory by major decision for the 126 pound championship.
“Blake has come a long way,” Schaad said. “He was on the team last year and he had some success, but he put a lot of time in during the offseason and wrestled in a freestyle program during the fall. He made leaps and bounds there and then came out in the first tournament of the year and won it. So we are happy for him.”
One weight class above Moore and Mullen, junior Wyatt Schneck won the 138 pound bracket with a major decision, a pin in the semifinals, and a decision in the championship match.
“I am really happy for Wyattt,” Schaad said. “He has wrestled for us for a couple years now, he works really hard, and he had a great day. He came out and wrestled better than I have ever seen him wrestle. He beat some really quality wrestlers and in the finals he beat the kid that took second in our league last year.”
Freshman Chaz Harrison also earned a spot in the finals, picking up a major decision and a pin in the semifinals, before ultimately being beaten in the 106 pound championship to finish in second place.
“He had a great day,” Schaad said. “It is exciting to have a freshman come out and do so well. There are guys that have wrestled here four years and haven’t been second in this tournament. This is a really good building block, not only for the rest of his freshman season, but for the rest of his career.”
Although Del Norte had six wrestlers in the finals, the Warriors had plenty more wins throughout the day, led by Braydon Henderson finishing in third place in the 195 pound bracket. Tanner Stancliff (152), Justin Goudelock (170) and Brendon Schrader (285) all took fourth place for Del Norte. Kurtis Turner finished in fifth place in the 138 pound bracket, while Daniel Armendariz (126) and Connor Long (160) both took sixth place.
“I am pretty excited about the day,” Schaad said. “They worked really hard. I told them before the tournament started that I wanted to see a lot of effort, I wanted to see them get after it and wrestle and not be timid. I thought they all went out there and did their best. Maybe they won the match, and maybe they lost, but they went out and wrestled their best and were aggressive. It was good to see.”
Perhaps the low point for the Warriros came in the 195 pound quarterfinals where senior Andrew Crespo had a slim lead when he was knocked out of the tournament with an apparent knee injury. Crespo, who transferred to Del Norte High School from Texas this year, missed the entire football season after a knee injury during the preseason this fall.
“He went down with a knee injury. We are hoping that it is nothing major, but we haven’t heard from him since he went to the hospital,” Schaad said. “We are hoping for the best for him.”
Del Norte is scheduled to be back in action on Saturday at the McKinleyville Invitational, where they will likely see a lot of the wrestlers from the Humboldt-Del Norte League once again. Schaad said Del Norte’s biggest tournament before the break will be the Grants Pass Winter Kickoff in two weeks.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com.