High School Sports

Prep Wrestling: Atascadero, Morro Bay look to continue strong seasons

Technically, there’s only one Atascadero High wrestling team, but the Greyhounds practice with enough wrestlers that they’d be able to field almost five complete squads, top-to-bottom.

The program plans on bringing 67 grapplers to the PAC 7 league finals at Righetti High at 9 a.m. Saturday, coach Jeff Spiller said.

Earlier this week, Atascadero (11-0, 6-0) claimed its fifth straight unbeaten regular-season league crown. The Greyhounds — who this past weekend won the Morro Bay CIT Invitational featuring more than 50 schools — have lost only one league dual meet since 2002. And to Spiller, their depth is the reason why.

“They all practice together,” Spiller said of the expansive roster. “We don’t call it ‘varsity’ or ‘JV;’ the kids can change every week (regardless of seniority).

“I think our backups are what make us,” Spiller continued. “You have someone pushing you (in practice) — if you don’t want that (weight-class) spot, you’ve got someone pushing you who does. Everyone says, ‘Hey, I’ve got to be here today; I can’t take a day off.’ ”Atascadero’s Michael Clemmensen (a 103-pound star), Elijah Jackson (145) and Brandon Armstrong (171) were all honorable mention selections in the TheCaliforniaWrestler.com’s latest rankings, placing them in the top 20 at their respective weight classes in the state, but more importantly, they’ve offered invaluable leadership to underclassmen, Spiller said.

It paid off in a 55-11 dual win over Paso Robles (16-3, 4-2) on Tuesday, when the Greyhounds used four sophomores.

One of the deepest challengers on Saturday figures to be the host Warriors, led by Josh Rodriguez (112) and Isaac McCormack (119).

Atascadero won the dual between the two in mid-January, 44-21.

“To beat them, it’s going to have to be a game of balance,” Spiller said, referring to the Greyhounds’ depth.

This year, he said, he hopes 10 of his wrestlers make it to the final round. The top-four placers at each weight class will move on to individual CIF-Southern Section competition, a feat Spiller thinks his team can accomplish at all 14 spots.

“Every one of them is a fighter,” he said.

Morro Bay after fifth straight Los Padres League crown

Morro Bay — ranked No. 1 in Division VI of the Southern Section — will be seeking its fifth consecutive Los Padres League championship at its league finals, which start at 9:30 Saturday morning at Lompoc High.

“Five (league titles in a row) would be really important, because it says it’s not a specific group of guys (in the same graduating class),” Pirates coach Michael Aanerud said. “It shows consistency as a program.”

The top three placers in each weight class will move on to the individual sectional bracket. Twelve Morro Bay wrestlers are seeded in the league’s top three heading into this weekend, while the other two are seeded fourth.

Although the league’s elite seem to be dispersed throughout, Santa Ynez — ranked No. 5 in Division VI — will likely offer the most imposing challenge, especially from Matt Giles, the top seed at 171. Santa Ynez stayed fairly close to Morro Bay in early January, losing 41-26.

Morro Bay (7-0, 5-0 LPL), which hasn’t lost a league dual in six years, claimed the Division VI championship last year, thanks in large part to seven different competitors who swept through the field 4-0. Consequently, the Pirates have gone through this season as less of a darkhorse.

“We’ve made that name for ourselves, and we’re sure people are going to wrestle us a little harder,” Aanerud said.

If that has been the case so far, though, it hasn’t slowed them. This past weekend, Morro Bay finished eighth overall at the CIT, capturing the small-schools championship at the event.

Co-captains Patrick Kelly (135) and Aaron Mininni (140) have led the way for the Pirates, while Jaccob Carlson (119), sophomore Kent Beecham (125), Justin Martinez (160) and Dom Woods (171) have also added banner years.

“We’ve got kids who care about the other kids’ wins as much as their own,” Aanerud said. “And that’s really important.”