Wrestling Overwhelms Competition at League Finals

JAMES HO
Co-Copy Editor

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

Player Spotlight: Abel Avila

Abel Avila, currently ranked 6th in all of Southern California regional wrestling, has come a long way since his  freshmen year. The wrestling captain’s persevering work ethic, alongside his immense talent, has enabled him to ascend to great success and a bright future ahead. He gives thanks to his family, friends and coach for supporting him throughout his wrestling career at Alhambra High.

What are some of the proud moments of the season?

While I did not win first for any tournaments last year,  my proudest moments of this season were winning first place in all of my tournaments except for one. I have also beaten numerous CIF champions during my four years of wrestling.

What were some personal obstacles you have had to overcome?

Injuries played a huge hindering role this season; I had dislocated my knee. Another obstacle was mental toughness. Having the heart and determination during practice is one obstacle I had to be tough about.

What are your goals after high school?

I want to attend a four-year university and continue to wrestle. I’ve received some offers from colleges to wrestle, but I am still waiting. After college, I would like to pursue being a firefighter.

What is the goal for next year’s team? What advice do you have for them?

Next year I hope for the team to win League because this year, unfortunately, we took third in League, which we haven’t taken in 11 years. I hope next year, the team will work together as a unit. Just work hard, put all your heart into wrestling and, most importantly, have fun.

What will you miss about the wrestling team?

I will miss everyone on my team, coaches and that feeling when I step on the mat for a match. All my coaches helped me out a lot, especially Coach Williams for mentally preparing me for CIF and truly believing in me in going far beyond wrestling and having a successful future in academics and life.

– Victor Huang, Co-Sports Editor

Girls’ Varsity Waterpolo makes Noticeable Improvement

VICTORIA GAVIA
Co-Copy Editor

As the varsity girls’ water polo  advances into the Almont League, the team is redirecting their focus to improve weak points in hopes for a successful season.

The team is optimistic because, only a few months into the season, they already have more wins than they had last year by the same time. Co-Captain Nicole Lunbeck believes this is because many of the girls have been putting forth more effort to better themselves as players.

“We have been getting closer as a team, now it’s like one big sisterhood. We’re showing a lot more potential,” said Lunbeck.

In addition, the team has adapted very well to their two new coaches, Nathan and Sarah Duran, who are constantly motivating them to do better. They have been integrating new plays and more useful techniques and strategies.

“The new coaches have given us a new start and hopefully our progress will show in upcoming games,” said senior Savannah Moore.

However, the girls are still adjusting, which was evident in their Jan. 26 League game against Schurr High. Though they took a loss, it was a very competitive game with a final score of 5-12.

“Even though we lost, a lot of the girls stepped up. We started forming plays that we had talked about and practiced. [The team was] a lot more organized,” said Lunbeck.

Previously, players would miss practices, which ultimately ended up affecting their team chemistry during games. However this problem has subsided and they have experienced a growth in member participation, including more players attending practices regularly.

“We have been preparing more plays, working on getting ready for League and swimming extra to increase our endurance,” said Moore.


Torrential Rains Keep Soccer From Scoring

Here in LA, we experienced a massive rainstorm that seemed to flood our entire world just a couple weeks ago. Subsequently, the AHS soccer team had to endure the inconveniences that ten inches of rain imposed. The boys’ soccer team has played two Almont League games this season before having another two games postponed due to poor weather.

Coming out of preseason with a 6-2-1 record, the boys had prospects for a successful League run.

“We did well in preseason and won six  games which is the best start I’ve seen since being here,” said Head Coach Netza Bravo.

However, the boys have lost their first two League games to Bell Gardens and San Gabriel. Also, after the initial losses, the team has not been able to bring up their record due to the poor conditions.

“At Bell Gardens, we were completely out-played and out-hustled, so we didn’t deserve to win that game. At San Gabriel, I believe that we were the better team, but we couldn’t score, so we let [the victory] get away,” said Bravo.

Based on their performance at the San Gabriel game, the team plans to step up their defense and ability to score goals at opportune moments to avoid similar losses.

“We have a great defense, but we don’t have an offense. We open up chances to score but never finish,” said mid-fielder Cesar Ortiz.

However, it is too early in the season to be discouraged, as the team has six more games before playoffs to turn their record around.

by James Ho

Co-Copy Editor

Promising Start for JV Girls’ Basketball

CATHERINE CHIANG

Staff Writer

With quite a few games under their belts already, the JV girls’ basketball team’s expectations are high. They are aiming to improve their Almont League standing from last year’s third place and hope to capture the championship title. Their hard work was rewarded in their first League game on Jan. 12 against Montebello High.

Coming from a solid preseason, the team headed off to their first season game with confidence. Establishing a lead early in the game, the Lady Moors ended their first quarter 22-0. Though Montebello stepped up and gained a few points, the game ended with a win for the Moors. The team finished with a score of 54-15 against the Montebello  Oilers. Beginning the season with a solid victory is a strong encouragement for the team.

“It was a great way to start off League,” said Head Coach Kimberly Kawasaki.

Kawasaki attributes the team’s win to their preparation before League and the players’ hard work in practice and in the game. During the game, they had a strong defense. The team was equally strong on offense which easily maintained their lead.

Though there are plenty of League games to go, the players are off to a promising start. The team holds a strong preseason record of 11-2.

“We have a well put-together squad [with] talented players,” said Kawasaki.

To prepare for their future League games, the team has to improve on technique and skills. According to Kawasaki, the players are focusing on fine-tuning their performance.

“Overall, we have a great team this year. There’s nothing we can’t improve on,” said Kawasaki.


Third New Coach in a Row Leads to Bad Chemistry

VINCENT LIN

Co-Sports Editor

Already in the middle of the Almont League season, the varsity girls’ soccer team is struggling to establish basic team unity. With a new head coach, Armando Gutierrez, the team is racing to try to connect with each other before the season draws to a close.

The Lady Moors include many star players that shine in their own light, but the team is failing to become recognized collectively. As a result, their preseason ended with a record of 2-8.

“There are a lot of good individual plays, but it’s difficult to work as a team,” said mid-fielder Vanessa Gutierrez.

Perhaps the most serious problem for the team is the switching of coaches each year for the past three seasons. Teams function particularly well when they have withheld the same coach for at least a few years. Even with graduating senior players, returning players and incoming JV players still build or maintain a strong bond with the coach, which enables them to play much more assuredly. Recently, in the case of girls’ soccer, the team has had no such luck.

“We’ve had a different coach each year for the past three years. It’s hard to get used to the different coaching styles each year,” said mid-fielder Gutierrez. Personally, Coach Gutierrez focuses on different tactics, having the team practice a lot of corner kick plays and passing drills.

The team describes itself as a “second half team,” or a team that may do more poorly in the first half of their game, but come around to improve their performance in the second half in a wave of motivation and desperation. More points are scored in the second half, but it may be too late for the team to surpass their opponent. Such was the case for much of the girls’ preseason, in which many games ended with only one or two point losses for Alhambra.

Another example of such a game was their Jan. 22 League match against Mark Keppel, which ended 3-5, with two points scored in the last half. However, that day, the girls were short one player and were also using a substitute goalie. It was raining heavily as well, leaving the field puddled, despite the game already having been postponed from Jan. 19 and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Keppel game also led to an injury for mid-fielder Paulina Ale, whose collision with another player led to an injured knee that will keep the player from the field for two weeks.

Nevertheless, seeing their close scores, the girls aspire for better results under better conditions, less hindrances and, of course, more practice.

“Even though we had a really rough start, we’re still trying to reach CIF. It’s not too late; if we fix our flaws, we really can make it to CIF,” said Ale.


Varsity Wrestling Starts League with Major Victories

ANGELYNE CHU

Staff Writer

Being in a sport requires a lot of time and devotion to the team. The varsity wrestling team is no exception, as they practice every day after school in the Dance Room. The team is eagerly anticipating the Almont League finals and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). Last year, five wrestlers placed in the CIF playoffs, three of which are returning this year. Now, they are aiming to place most of the wrestlers in the top ten of CIF.

According to Head Coach Mike Williams, he has kept the same training system for years. Although half the team is still young and the other half is experienced, the team is definitely progressing as one and the players are improving everyday.

“They started out slow, but they’re gradually picking it up. Each player is doing their own part and the inexperienced are growing better while the experienced are taking it to another level,” said Captain Abel Avila.

Although the players are improving, there were some factors that slowed down their progress. These issues include injuries such as a sprained back,  sprained ankle and skin infection, along with the players’ academic grades.

“The injuries did slow us down, but we just need to ignore the pain and just concentrate on training,” said Captain Chris Lopez.

Their first League match against the Bell Garden Lancers took place on Jan. 6 and  ended with a victory of 56-18. There were three forfeits for Bell Gardens since they did not have opponents to send forth that were close to Alhambra wrestlers’ weights. There were also five backup wrestlers left. In a one-on-one match, Avila defeated his opponent with a 15 point lead of 16-1.

“The team did well, but they are not good enough for Schurr or Montebello just yet. There were some things that need to be improved like mental errors and techniques, but overall, they just need to raise their level,” said Williams.

Also, Captain Hugo Perez was one of the three players whose opponent had to forfeit the match and sat at the sidelines watching the rest of his teammates wrestle. From analyzing the moments that happened during the game, Perez believes that the team’s spirit can be better.

On Jan. 13, the Moors faced off against the San Gabriel Matadors in their second League match. There were three forfeits from San Gabriel and four backup wrestlers left for Alhambra, but the match ended in a 64-18 victory.

Overall, all three returning CIF captains of the varsity wrestling team (Avila, Lopez and Perez) firmly believe that their attitude as a team is the most important thing to work on.

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