Menlo-Atherton girls lead the charge | February 15, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - February 15, 2019

Menlo-Atherton girls lead the charge

Palo Alto, Gunn also in the mix

by Rick Eymer

The girls wrestling program at Menlo-Atherton has come full circle, having grown from a single wrestler to one on the verge of capturing its third consecutive Central Coast Section title.

Senior Folashade Akinola will be going for her fourth straight title, something only Gunn grad Cadence Lee (2011-14) has achieved.

Until last year, M-A had a total of three CCS champions in its history (Akinola, Chelsea Wilson and Kendra Wiley). The Bears produced four CCS champions last year and two others reached the championship match.

With all six returning, it could be another record year when the tournament opens Friday at Independence High. The boys get going at 10 a.m. while the girls start at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, everybody starts wrestling at 10 a.m. and the boys and girls finals will run concurrently beginning at 7 p.m.

Akinola (189), Anna Smith (131), Lauren McDonnell (137) and Abby Ericson (160) are defending champions. Evelyn Calhoon (121) and Angie Bautista (126) were CCS runner-ups a year ago.

All six are seeded first or second and Paola Ramirez is the fourth seed at 116.

For Palo Alto, Ashley Wang is second second in 121, behind Calhoon. Alexandra Lee is the sixth seed at 126 and Zoe Wong-VanHaren is an alternate seed at 111.

Gunn's Kayla Lin (126) and Mikayla Silverman are both alternate seeds.

On the boys side, Palo Alto's Andrew Wang (126) is a second seed and Adar Schwarzbach (132) is a four seed. Dara Haydorpour (138), Max Felter (106) and Charlie Williams (160) are alternates.

Gunn does not have a seeded wrestler but SCVAL champions Timothy Waymouth (152) and Dash Lee (182), Cadence's younger brother, are experienced wrestlers at this level and have the chance to qualify for state. The top three in each weight class automatically qualify.

"For me it's been a strong support system, a lot of hours on the mat and in the weight room, working hard," Akinola said. "I have a vision of what I want. All I want is to wrestle and I love doing it."

Akinola finished second in the state meet last year and it seems appropriate that she has a chance to win a state title, joining Wilson as M-A's only female state champs in the sport.

"She was a great leader," Akinola said. "She was well-grounded, amazingly disciplined and a great technician."

Akinola followed her older brother, a wrestler and football player at M-A, into sports. She's good enough to be recruited but has her priorities are centered around her senior year.

"I want to get through state and be proud of that," Akinola said. "I'm focused on grades and doing well academically before I start looking at colleges.

Calhoon didn't need to wrestle -- soccer is her first love -- but was attracted to the energy, the outright enthusiasm, of the wrestling room.

"Wrestling is what I call my off-season sport," said Calhoon, who recently signed with Brown for soccer. "I love this time. It's good for cross-training. The sport is so grueling. There aren't 10 other players around you."

Calhoon wrestled her older brother but stopped after twisting an ankle a couple years ago during a snow trip to the Lake Tahoe region.

Calhoon plays with the Mountain View-Los Altos soccer team, surrounded by Division I candidates. She will join former MVLA teammate Sara Bermudez, who attended Mercy Burlingame, at Brown in the fall of 2020. Calhoon is taking a year off before beginning her college career.

McDonnell placed fifth in last year's state meet. She withdraw in the placement round of her last tournament because of illness. She said she was healthy and ready to go.

Ericson has never finished lower than third in the CCS and qualified for the state meet the previous three years, placing sixth last year.

Calhoon won three of her five bouts at the state meet. Ramirez was a CCS quarterfinalist last year.

Practices at M-A can get pretty intense, as recent Menlo College graduates Cady Chessin, a former CCS champion from Los Gatos, Melanie Cordero and Lahi Kanakanui are coaches and sparring partners to the team.

"You see it all in our room," Calhoon said. "We don't need to go anywhere else to find sparring partners. You feel so prepared."

"It's a gift to be in a room with so many dedicated female coaches," Akinola said. "They're also some of the top wrestlers in the nation. That's a good level of sparring."

Which could lead to success this weekend.

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