Sneaking up on opponents is a luxury the Morro Bay High wrestling team won’t have anymore. Not after opening the season ranked No. 1 in Division VI of the CIF-Southern Section.
Of course, the ranking shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as the Pirates won the division championship last season, with seven wrestlers going 4-0 in the process.
“Last year, we kind of felt more like a dark horse that came in under the radar, and we got to chase other teams under the spotlight,” Morro Bay coach Michael Aanerud said. “Now it seems like we’re going to be that team with a target on our back and the spotlight on us.”
If this past weekend is any indication, the Pirates aren’t letting the added expectations get to them.
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At the 16-team Pete Duca Invitational hosted by Nipomo, Morro Bay won the team title on Saturday with 218 points.
The tournament featured, among others, perennial PAC 7 powers Atascadero (which took fourth place), a Southern Division champion last season, and Paso Robles (sixth place), which in recent years has churned out a handful of Pac-10 grapplers.
“It’s a great statement to start out our season,” Aanerud said. “This area has produced a lot of talent, and to not only compete with the teams around here but to get ahead of them (at such a tournament) is a huge step.
“We’ve got really high potential right now,” Aanerud added. “We haven’t beaten teams like an Atascadero or a Righetti in the last few years. Even last year when we were a (Division VI) championship team, we weren’t better than Atascadero. They haven’t gone downhill; they’re thriving and getting better every year. That alone shows us how high the potential might be.”
At the invitational, the Pirates’ Kent Beecham and Dom Woods each claimed undefeated individual titles at 125 and 171 pounds, respectively. Beecham, a sophomore, won all four of his matches by pin.
“Those are two kids who really have their minds set on going forward,” Aanerud said. “They’ve put in a ton of work, and they want to go to state, whether that’s now or in the future.”
It was the Pirates’ depth, however, that lifted them to the team title, as they had 11 placers — four of whom finished second in their weight classes: Jaccob Carlson (at 119 pounds), Dolin Mininni (135), Patrick Kelly (140) and Aaron Mininni (152).
“For the most part, it was really the team as a whole,” Aanerud said. “It wasn’t five guys getting first that won it for us; it was all 11 guys chipping away. They’re really strong as a group.”
Morro Bay, which has won four straight Los Padres League championships, will host San Luis Obispo for a Wednesday dual before visiting Nipomo on Dec. 15.
Aanerud particularly credited the Pirates’ close-knit bonds for playing a significant role in the early-season promise.
“There are all these different cliques at Morro Bay (High),” he said. “But in the wrestling room, there are a couple kids from all of those cliques, all hanging out and getting along great. There’s great team chemistry, and that helps.”
CROSS COUNTRYNine San Luis Obispo County runners competed in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships’ men’s and women’s Western Regional seeded 5K races on Saturday morning at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.
Among 109 competitors in the women’s run, Mission Prep’s Annie Mooney was 21st in an all-regional third-team time of 19:01, trailed by Arroyo Grande’s Katie Lewis (89th, 20:36) and McKenzie Goldman (103rd, 21:23).
Of 175 runners in the men’s race, Nipomo’s Andrew Garcia finished 59th in 16:43, followed by Arroyo Grande’s Hugo Gutierrez (80th, 16:57), Morro Bay’s James Shipe (106th, 17:18) and Arroyo Grande’s Cullen Cali (125th, 17:33), Juan Alvarez (152nd, 18:12) and Jose Corona (153rd, 18:21).