Local wrestlers have had a lot of success over the years at the CIF-Southern Section divisional individual championships. The only thing is, they haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy it locally.
That’ll change today and Saturday, when the PAC 7 and Los Padres League will compete along the Central Coast for the first time in more than 20 years.
“It’s a rare opportunity,” Paso Robles coach Chris Monteiro said.
The Southern Section Northern Division individual finals will be held at San Luis Obispo High starting at 11 a.m. today, expected to finish at about 9:30 p.m. Bouts will start again at 11 a.m. Saturday, with championship showdowns expected to get under way at about 5 p.m. at the same site.
The last time the event was held in San Luis Obispo County was in 1987, at Atascadero.
“We’ve been negotiating for years,” Monteiro said. “We’re the farthest-north (league) in all of the Southern Section, so every year we’re driving down.”
Wrestlers who place in the top five of their respective weight classes this weekend earn trips to the Southern Section Masters Meet, which will be held Feb. 25-26 at Temecula Valley High. There, the top nine placewinners in each class move on to the overall state championships, which will be March 4-5 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
Two weeks ago at the PAC 7 finals, Atascadero sent competitors from all 14 weight classes on to today’s meet. Six Greyhounds won their weight classes: Michael Clemmensen (103 pounds), Jordan Gottfried (119), Abe Halterman (130), Paul Woodman (145), Elijah Jackson (160) and Matt Ducasse (189).
The Greyhounds, who recently wrapped up their sixth straight season without losing a league dual, are looking to finish with the most total points at the divisional individual championships for the third consecutive year. They couldn’t be happier to be able to go for it close to home.
Last year’s championships, for example, were held at Perris Citrus Hill High in Riverside County, roughly a five-hour drive, requiring travel plans to be made well ahead of time and money to be spent on commuting and hotels.
“It’s really cool the tournament’s up here,” Atascadero coach Jeff Spiller said, “but the league is definitely sympathetic to the other people traveling. As much as it’s an enjoyment for us to be up here, it is a hassle for other people.”
At Atascadero’s boys basketball playoff game Wednesday night, Greyhounds staff used the occasion to encourage the crowd to show up this weekend dressed to make an “orange-out” of the stands.
“They’ve never had the chance to win a championship at home,” Spiller said of his team. “The only people who knew it (the past two years) were the people in the gym.”
Atascadero is ranked No. 26 in the state as a team by TheCaliforniaWrestler. com, seventh in the Southern Section. The website ranks Clemmensen sixth statewide at his class, No. 2 in the Southern Section, and has Jackson seventh in California at his weight, including a No. 3 ranking in the Southern Section.
Also at the league finals, Paso Robles had 12 grapplers advance, including Cesar Delgado, who won the 171-pound title.
Arroyo Grande had three individuals move on, including Colton Smith, who won at 215 pounds, and Raul Uc, who’s ranked No. 10 statewide at 140, No. 2 at that class in the Southern Section.
San Luis Obispo also sent two individuals on to this weekend.
Meanwhile, at the Los Padres League finals, Morro Bay qualified nine wrestlers to compete starting today.
Four Pirates won individual titles there: Dolin Mininni (135), Jaccob Carlson (140), Kent Beecham (145) and Frank Martinez (171).
Nipomo also fared well at the LPL finals, with heavyweight Brett Kimball winning a title and four others advancing, as well.
In addition to the local emphasis, this weekend’s meet is also highly anticipated because it’s expected to feature one of the elite wrestlers in the country.
Morgan McIntosh, a 189-pound senior at Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana, has committed to Penn State and is rated by HSwrestling.net as the No. 1 overall college recruit in the nation, regardless of weight class.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” San Luis Obispo coach David Kelley said. “The exposure this is going to give for the sport here on the Central Coast is pretty impressive. Some of the best wrestling in the state of California is going to happen here.”