Placed in Division 1 of the CIF-Southern Section, the PAC 7 is mixed in with some of the toughest wrestling leagues in the state. It’s not as if it doesn’t belong.
As the PAC 7 finals get under way at 9 a.m. today at Paso Robles High, 10 individual grapplers from around the league are ranked in the top 25 statewide at their respective weight classes by TheCaliforniaWrestler.com. Today’s championship bouts are expected to start after about 3 p.m.
Competitors who place in the top four in each weight class advance to the division’s individual championships, which will be held Feb. 18 and 19 at San Luis Obispo High.
Five of those state-ranked wrestlers are from Atascadero, which recently wrapped up its sixth straight unbeaten season in league duals.
In the league’s team standings, Atascadero has a two-point edge, meaning that if the Bearcats — who lost just one dual — were to fare better top-to-bottom today, the Greyhounds would have to share the league title with them.
“That kind of makes your kids be on,” Atascadero coach Jeff Spiller said. “You never know. This is kind of when the pressure starts, so anything can happen.
“If you can peak (during the postseason), then it doesn’t matter what you did the first part of your season.”
Leading the way for the Greyhounds are Michael Clemmensen (at 103 pounds) and Elijah Jackson (160), each ranked No. 7 in the state at their respective weight classes by TCW.
Jackson, who’s going for the rare feat of a fourth straight league title, won a championship at his weight earlier this season at the 70-team Sam Boyd California Invitational Tournament at Morro Bay.
The Greyhounds’ Cullen Joy (135 pounds) and Stephen Trockman (171) are both slotted No. 23 statewide, with Jordan Gottfried (119) 24th.
Atascadero also has No. 1 seeds today in Abe Halterman (at 130 pounds), Paul Woodman (145) and Matt Ducasse (189).
Paso Robles, which finished with only one league dual defeat, features the state’s 18th-ranked 130-pounder in Kevan Garcia, a sophomore.
Earlier this season, Garcia placed second in his class at the 72-team Mid-Cal Classic Tournament. A year ago, he was believed to be the first freshman in program history to make it to the sectional masters meet.
The Bearcats also have the No. 1 seed at 171 pounds in Cesar Delgado, and second-seeded wrestlers in Brady Zubia (140 pounds), Colton Madrigal (160) and Deonte Willis (215).
Righetti, which finished third in the regular-season dual standings, has the highest-ranked individual of all today in Josh Rodriguez, No. 3 in the state at 112 pounds.
The Warriors’ Luke Wilson (ranked 16th in California at 135 pounds) and Anthony Rodriguez (No. 17 at 125) have also had strong years.
“Paso Robles and Righetti very easily could’ve beaten us (in duals),” Spiller said. “They’re right there.”
Raul Uc from Arroyo Grande is ranked No. 12 in the state (No. 1 in the Southern Section) at 140 pounds and enters as the top seed today.
The Eagles are also led by Colton Smith, the top seed at 215 pounds.
Today’s 135-pound action is expected to be elite on a regional par, with the top three — Garcia, Joy and Wilson — all being No. 1 seed-worthy in ordinary years, Spiller said, calling that weight class maybe the best grouping he has ever seen in a league final.
Morro Bay looks to rebound from dual loss
Morro Bay recently suffered a rare Los Padres League dual loss, 40-24 to Santa Ynez, which has also been a longtime contender in the LPL.
Thus, the two programs come into today’s LPL finals — which start at 10 a.m. at Morro Bay High, with championship bouts expected to begin at about 2:30 p.m. — as the favorites.
Morro Bay came into this season having won the past five LPL championships, and in 2009 the program won the Southern Section Division 6 title.
Morro Bay has been led by Dolin Mininni, who’s ranked No. 29 in the state (14th in the Southern Section) by TCW at 135 pounds.
Mininni won the CIT title at his weight class earlier this season, joining Jackson as the only county wrestlers to win championships at that prestigious stage.
Also having strong years for Morro Bay are Kent Beecham, ranked 37th statewide (10th in the section) at 145 pounds, and Frank Martinez, 49th at 171.
Nipomo’s top competitor at the finals figures to be heavyweight Brett Kimball.
At the Atascadero-hosted New Year’s Revolution Tournament in early January, Kimball collected six pins over a two-day span to win his weight class.