The Del Norte wrestling team had its best ever showing at the North Coast Section Division II Redwood Empire duals on Saturday. The Warriors went down to Eureka and picked up a pair of comfortable dual victories before falling in the finals to take second place as a team.
With the runner up finish, Del Norte earned its first NCS dual banner for placing in the top three at the tournament since the NCS added the dual championships in in 2005.
“There was a lot of competitive wrestling today. When you come to dual meets your whole lineup goes at once, which is nice because at a regular meet you are jumping between different matches on different mats. We had a lot of wrestling today, and a lot of good wrestling today. We have never brought home and NCS dual meet banner before— we have been close several times.”
After wrapping up an undefeated regular season in duals on Tuesday, Del Norte had a couple wrestlers in the starting lineup leave the team due to grades this week. The Warriors were even more short handed as another wrestler missed the team bus down to Eureka and was unable to compete in the NCS Duals.
Del Norte managed to plug most of the holes it its lineup by moving wrestlers that had been competing with the junior varsity up into the varsity lineup. The Del Norte boys also borrowed Danika Scott from the girls team to go out and accept forfeits in a couple of the 285 pound matches. The Warriors were forced to forfeit at 106 pounds in all of its matches, however, after Del Norte’s only wrestler at that weight missed the team bus down to Eureka.
The Warriors responded to a little early adversity by wrestling well, however, jumping out to a big lead over Redwood — that Marin County champions — one their way to a 54-30 victory.
“Redwood had some holes in their lineup, but so did we. Redwood was able to win their league with the lineup that they have,” Schaad said. “We came out and looked really dominant in that first dual. Overall the boys wrestled really well.”
Del Norte’s win over Redwood set up a semifinal match up between No. 2 seeded Petaluma and the No. 3 Warriors.
“We lost to that team last year. It isn’t necessary a rematch, because players do change, but their coach told me that they have a dozen seniors on that team, so 12 our of 14 wrestlers,” Schaad said. “That doesn’t mean anything is guaranteed, but they have some experience. I thought we came out and wrestled very well. We got the wins that we needed to get.”
The Warriors got off to a fast start against Petaluma. Justin Goudelock kicked off the dual with a late pin in a 170 pound match that he trailed for most of the first two periods. The Warriors picked up a win by forfeit in the 182 pound weightclass and Del Norte never trailed.
After Skyler Moore piked up a win by fall in the 126 pound match, Warrior senior Sherrik Cron sealed the victory with a pin in the 132 pound match after cracking the varsity lineup following a few successful junior varsity tournaments.
“Sherrik Cron came out and he is our starter right now,” Schaad said. “He pinned a really good kid. Everyone wrestled really well, but that one match iced it for us, even though we still had a few matches to go.”
Fellow Del Norte senior Wyatt Schneck followed up Cron’s pin with a win by fall of his own to give the Warriors their largest lead of the dual at 47-12. Unfortunately the Warriors suffered some hard luck at the tail end of the semifinals.
Del Norte’s Nolan Ridgely was wrestling in the 145 pound match when he did an illegal throw which resulted in the Petaluma wrestler landing on his head. Ridgely was OK, according to Schaad, but was held out of the rest of the tournament as a precaution after being checked out by athletic trainers on site.
Seth Gorbet then suffered a similar fate in the 152 pound match, when he lost consciousness while being taken to his back. He was taken out of Eureka High School on a stretcher to get checked out, but received a clean bill of health and returned in time to watch the Warriors last dual of the day in the finals.
After a pair of injuries and with Gorbet still laying in the middle of the mat, Del Norte elected to forfeit the last match against Petaluma at 160 pounds, despite having a wrestler available.
“We wrestled a really good match against Petaluma, the downside is that we got beat up a little bit,” Schaad said. “Whenever you have a high level competition you are going to have a little more bumps and bruises, in whatever sport you are playing. Everyone here was either No. 1 or No. 2 in their league.”
Although Tanner Stancliff is Del Norte’s regular wrestler at 152 pounds, the Warriors didn’t have anyone to replace Ridgely in the lineup, leaving Del Norte even more shorthanded heading into the finals against eventual champion Ukiah.
The Warriors ended up forfeiting matches at 106, 145 and 220 pounds against Ukiah, effectively giving the Wildcats an 18-0 lead before the dual began.
“We spotted Ukiah 18 points and we lost by 20,” Schaad said. “I’m not saying we could have won those matches, but it sure would have been nice to have a full lineup. I thought the kids wrestled really well against Ukiah. As one coach put it, we looked pretty inspired. We had some great wins. It was a very close dual, a great dual.”
In the 11 matches wrestled in the finals, Del Norte won five. Chaz Harrison, Moore (126), Cron (132), Stancliff (152), and Kurtis Turner (170) each won their matches against Ukiah by fall.
Despite the loss in the finals, Del Norte was pleased with its most successful trip to the NCS duals ever.
“We have never brought home and NCS dual banner. In the early days we weren’t allowed to wrestle for third. Today we made the finals, so we were able to make history in the sense that we got our first banner at an NCS dual meet, and we were runners up and really close to first,” Schaad said. “The kids have put in a lot of hard work. It is good for these seniors to come through and get a banner, and it is great for our underclassmen to see it and to know that it is something that we are definitely capable of doing.”
Del Norte’s wasn’t the only team from the HDN to have success in the Redwood Empire duals. Both Fortuna and Eureka were also included in the field. The host Loggers managed to pick up a win over Drake, while Fortuna wrestled their way to a third-place finish to grab a banner.
“It is nice to see the HDN getting better,” Schaad said. “As we get better as a league and we go into a seeding meeting at these better tournaments we can say, ‘We were first or second in the Humboldt-Del Norte,’ and that is going to carry a little more weight.”
The Del Norte boys wrestling team’s dual season is now officially over, but the postseason is just beginning. Schaad said the team can’t enjoy their success at the NCS duals too much just yet, with the Humboldt-Del Norte League championships scheduled to be back in Eureka on Saturday.
“We don’t get to relax and enjoy what has happened until it is all done. We have about three or four weeks left, and then we can sit back and enjoy it,” Schaad saod. “We had a lot of fun, a lot of excitement, and the kids are feeling really good. We want to take this momentum and build on it for the league finals. Our lineup has changed, but we are going to pick up the pieces. We have good wrestlers right behind them wanting to fill in and wrestle, and that is what we are going to do.”
Although Del Norte managed to beat Fortuna in a close dual earlier this season, Schaad said the Warriors will need another great performance next week to edge out their closest league rivals for a HDN Tournament championship.
“We are going to have to wrestle really well. Fortuna is looking really strong right now,” Schaad said. “Our lineup has change, we looked great today, but we are going to have to work with that. We have the ability to win a league title, but today Fortuna was third and we were second. Right now Fortuna has really good athletes in all of their sports from football to basketball and wrestling. They have a really strong athletic program. So next weekend will just be one match at a time. Win the one in front of you and move on to the next one.”
Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Eureka High School.