The Del Norte boys wrestling team wrapped up its season with its strongest showing at the North Coast Setction Wrestling Championships in over a decade.
The Warriors took all 13 of their varsity wrestlers down to James Logan High School and finished the two-day tournament with a pair of top-eight placers, while 12 of the 13 Del Norte grapplers won at least one match.
“It was a very successful tournament for us,” said Del Norte head coach Clinton Schaad. “Everybody was able to go down there and compete well, and get some wins in. In most of our matches that we lost, it was because they were kids that were either ranked wrestlers, or placers. As you win and move on the field gets smaller and smaller and the matches get tougher and tougher. ”
Although the Warriors had a pair of section placers at the tournament last year, Del Norte had a much better showing from the rest of its wrestlers at sections this year, propelling them into a tie for 13th place out of 95 schools with 102 team points.
“We thought if we could make the top 15 teams that would be a great step forward because last year we only scored 56 points and were down in the 20-something range,” Schaad said. “Throughout the day we scored 102 points and ended up tied for 13th, and just a couple points out of 12th. There were over 90 schools there and eight or nine of them didn’t score a single points. For only having two section placers and still placing that high is pretty impressive. Normally you need three or four placers, maybe even five to get close to that top 10. We only had two placers, but everybody else on the team was competitive and wrestled and won matches. We are getting better top to bottom, we aren’t just relying on two or three kids.”
Each of the dozen teams that finished ahead of the Warriors in the standings came from substantially larger schools.
“There are no divisions in wrestling,” Schaad said. “So as we look through the teams, everybody ahead of us is substantially larger with 1,700 to 3,800 kids. So they have us by 900 to 1,000 students or more — they are double our size or bigger. So as far as our school size we ran away with it. We just finished behind these mega schools and we competed with them. We haven’t been that good in a while. Years ago we had some section banners, but we kind of slowed down. Now we are picking back up again.”
Junior Skyler Moore lead the way for the Warriors, going 5-2 in the 126 pound bracket over the course of the weekend to take fifth place, making the podium for the second straight season after finishing 7th as a sophomore.
“He had a really good tournament. He was the No. 5 seed and he was able to hold his seed,” Schaad said. “He had a really tough match against the No. 4 seed in the quarterfinals. He went down and pinned a couple kids before losing to the No. 3 seed to make the consolation finals, but he dropped down and pinned the kid in the fifth place match. He finished two places higher than last year, and being a two-time section placer is pretty exciting and he is only a junior. So he had a really good tournament and he is looking good going into his senior year.”
Sophomore Chaz Harrison also made the podium for the Warriors, wrestling his way to a seventh place finish at 113 pounds.
“He had a really good tournament to place seventh,” Schaad said. “In his trek to seventh place he was unseeded and he actually pinned the No. 6 seed, the No. 7 seed and the No. 9 seed. So he had a really good tournament and wrestled well throughout the whole thing. Placing in the NCS as a sophomore is a pretty big accomplishment.”
Senior Wyatt Schneck also wrestled well at the 138 pound bracket, going 4-2 overall and falling just one win short of reaching the podium in one of the toughest weightclasses in the NCS this year.
“Wyatt had a solid tournament as a senior,” Schaad said. “He came through and lost in what we call the blood round — the round where if we would have won we would have placed. He got beaten by the No. 3 seed and the No. 8 seed, but he was in probably the toughest bracket as far as returning section placers. Of the nine seeded wrestlers, eight of them were returning section placers and the one who wasn’t had placed the year before. So he was in a really tough weightclass. So to wrestle the way he did was really impressive.”
The Warriors had four more wrestlers finish the section tournament with 2-2 records for the weekend.
Senior Braydon Henderson won a couple matches in the 182 pound bracket.
“Braydon has had a great year for and had worked hard all year,” Schaad said. “It paid off for him by making the second day of the tournament. He got beaten by the No. 6 seed and his last match was a really good match. He had fun and was able to wrap up a really successful year.”
Nolan Ridgely also picked up a couple wins while wrestling in the 145 pound bracket.
“Nolan had a really good tournament as well,” Schaad said. “He came out and won his first match by fall before getting beat by a top-ranked wrestler. He dropped down into the consolation and ran into the kid that beat him in the third place match at HDNs from Arcata and he was able to pin him. So it was nice to get a little bit of redemption. In his last match he lost to a kid that ended up being a placer, so he lost to some pretty tough kids.”
Both Kurtis Turner (170) and Poy Aguilar (285) were wrestling up a weightclass due to where they were placed in the HDN tournament, but both battled their way to a couple wins while competing against larger wrestlers.
“We bumped him up in the lineup for HDNs because we had a hole there in our lineup. He is a little undersized, but he went out and worked his tail off. He lost to the No. 5 seed in his first match out and got a little beat up in that one with a bloody nose and things like that. But he came back out and won his next two matches. He looked really good while giving up a ton of size.”
Aguilar was giving up even more size, as the freshman grappler is a little on the small side even for the 220 pound weightclass. Still, he managed to hole his own against the biggest wrestlers on the North Coast.
“He got bumped to heavyweight and was giving up a lot of size, but he wrestled well and went 2-2. In his first match he got a 23 second pin against a much larger man,” Schaad said. “Then he picked up a win by forfeit, but if we had wrestled him I think we would have been alright. Then he drew the No. 1 seed who won the whole tournament. Poy has looked good this year, but he is not a 250 pound heavyweight, so he lost that match. In his last match he was probably giving up about 60 pounds and ended up losing that one. But going 2-2 as a freshman heavyweight when you are not a heavyweight was really exciting.”
Andre Aflague (106 pounds), Cruz Cerros (120), Tanner Stancliff (152), Justin Goudelock (160), and Brandon Jones (195) were also able to win a match before being eliminated from the section tournament. All five Warriors finished 1-2 for the weekend.
Sherrik Cron also competed in the NCS Tournament, going 0-2 at 132 pounds.
“Overall everybody wrestled tough,” Schaad said. “We represented out league and our school really well.”
Although the Warriors were pleased with the team’s performance on Friday and Saturday, the section tournament brings an end to the wrestling season for the Del Norte boys. Schaad said he believes that the future looks bright for Warrior wrestling, however.
“We are losing four seniors, which is always hard to replace, but we are returning everybody else,” he said. “We had a great season this year and going forward it looks even better for next year. We have accomplished a lot this year. We got our first ever NCS Dual Meet banner by making the finals there, we have a league title, and we made the top 13 in NCS. It’s sad to be my seniors go, but that is one of those things that happens every year, you just have to get used to it.”
Schaad said this year’s senior class is particularly special to him personally, as they are the class that were freshmen when Schaad took over as the head coach for Del Norte after 13 years as an assistant.
“This was my first four-year cycle,” Schaad said. “The seniors have been working hard for four years and they have been able to lead the team to win banners and win league titles. Now they are moving on. I think three of them are going into the military and the other one is looking at maybe a trade school.”
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .