The Del Norte boys wrestling team found its fire and finished strong on the first day of the Lou Bronzan Invitational at Liberty High School in Brentwood on Friday. The Warriors entered 13 wrestlers into the two-day tournament, featuring 61 teams and finished the day in fifth place overall with 84 team points.

“Overall their fire and tenacity is much better. The biggest improvement that I see this week is we are being aggressive,” said Del Norte head coach Clinton Schaad. “We aren’t backing down and we expect to win when we wrestle. Our competitive nature seems to be back. The girls were great last weekend; they were on fire still and they were very competitive, but the boys won that tournament in McKinelyville, and I don’t know if they thought they had it all figured out, but we went into Grants Pass and kind of got slapped around a little bit.”

But the Warriors have been hard at work since the Grants Pass Winter Kickoff last weekend and it showed on Friday.

“I hate to jinx the kids, but we are wrestling absolutely fantastic. We are not the same team as last weekend,” Schaad said. “Last week I was kind of upset about their fire and their tenacity — that go-get-them attitude. We had a couple good days of practice where we went really hard in there and today they were absolutely getting after it.”

Highlighting the first day for Del Norte were three Warriors that went undefeated and are still in the hunt for first place in their respective weight classes. Skyler Moore (138 pounds) pinned his way into the semifinals with three straight wins by fall. Nolan Ridgely (145) advanced through the first two rounds with 9-0 and 8-3 wins respectively, but Schaad said he found himself trailing 11-3 in the quarterfinals. Ridgely managed to pick up the win, however, by putting his opponent to his back in the third period to pick up his only pin of the day. Justin Goudelock (170) received a first round bye, before picking up a win by fall and an 11-4 win by decision to advance to today’s semifinals.

Wyatt Schneck also advanced all the way to the quarterfinals in the 138 pound bracket before falling to Liam O’Neill of Petaluma.

Although the day ended up well for Del Norte, it got off to a bit of a rough start with six Warriors losing their first match of the day.

“We had a really rough first round,” Schaad said. “We lost some matches that were frustrating, but we bounced back and did great.”

Chaz Harrison (120), Tanner Stancliff (152), Brandon Jones (195), and Poy Aguilar (220) all lost their first match of the day in Brentwood but won out through the consolation bracket and are still in the running to finish as high as third place when wrestling resumes today.

Daniel Armendariz (132) and Braydon Henderson (182) are also still alive in the consolation bracket today. Both Warriors won their first match of the day before falling in the next round but survived in the consolation bracket to compete again today.

“It was a good strong day, and we had a strong finish,” Schaad said. “It was the polar opposite of last week, where we took a lot of losses in that last round. It is nice to be on the uptick after Day 1 and feeling good about ourselves.”

Although Del Norte feels good about its first day at the Lou Bronzan Invitational, Schaad said the team still has a lot of work to do if it wants to say in the top five of the team standings by tournament’s end — or even in the top 10.

“I told them, ‘They are wrestling well, good job. But this isn’t a pep talk to go home, feel good about yourself, and take tomorrow off. If you want to maintain what we are doing you have to wrestle hard tomorrow,’” Schaad said.

In addition to the 10 remaining Del Norte boys in the Lou Bronzan Invitational, the Warriors expect to have seven girls in action at Liberty High School as the girls tournament — known as the Brittany David Invitational — kicks off.

“Every weekend those girls compete they get better and better, and they are fun to watch,” Schaad said. “We will be really busy with 10 guys still in it, and then seven in the girls tournament.

“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going (today). This is a very tough tournament, and we haven’t been here in about 10 years. It is nice to come back to it, have some success and let everybody know that we are working hard and competitive. We are actually more than competitive right now in the top five out of 60-plus.”

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