Within the musty, dim-lit gymnasium of Mark Keppel High on Feb. 6, the varsity wrestling Almont League finals took place. On that cloudy morning, the Alhambra wrestling team psyched themselves up to show off the intensity of their drive and go home with yet another victory under their belts.
During the tournament, which began at 9 a.m. and ended after an entire nine-hour stretch at 6 p.m., Alhambra secured 13 spots for 13 of its wrestlers to move onto the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) championships, which will take place at the end of February. Although the League finals tournament is not a school-specific tournament, since it is mainly to find out which individual wrestlers will go to CIF, AHS had the highest number of wrestlers to place in their weight divisions.
These wrestlers included Abel Avila, Christian Lopez and Hugo Perez. Each of them placed first out of the entire tournament within the 142 pound, 114 pound and 105 pound weight divisions, respectively. Also, Roman Hernandez, David Moran, Harry Nong and Ernie Ornelas each placed second in their divisions. Alfred Gingz and Manuel Reyes captured third place within their divisions. Another three of the wrestlers, Richard Poun, Stephen Ovsepian and Calvin Hu, will also be going to CIF as alternates.
Christian Lopez, a four-year member of the team, went into the tournament with a resolution.
“I felt like I needed to take [the victory] back. I wanted to be a four-year League champ, but last year I didn’t get to do it. Now, I’m a three-year champ and I’m glad to have taken it back. In CIF, I want to go into my matches strong and with no negativity. I want to go out in first place for my last year in high school,” said Lopez.
The large number of individuals placing at the tournament is a sure sign that AHS will also be putting members of the team into State finals, as well.
“The League finals tournament is small-time stuff for us. I was hoping to get at least ten wrestlers into CIF and we’re ending up sending 13,” said Head Coach Mike Williams.
After the finals, the team sets its sights on CIF and then moves on to preparing for State finals. Last year, AHS had five wrestlers qualify for competing at the statewide level and this year, Williams hopes to replicate if not surpass that feat.
“At our school, demographics have changed drastically and the wrestling team doesn’t get the same amount of recognition as it used to. We’ve become trivialized even though we’ve been League champs for many years since the 80s. We have a big chance of getting our guys into competing at statewide championships,” said Williams.
Approaching the end of the season, the team continues to practice daily to remain in top shape for the more rigorous competitions to come