With football players like Spencer Drazovich and Jose Tochez on the Paly wrestling team, it seemed only fitting for that squad to enjoy some historic success, as well.
The Vikings did just that last weekend by becoming the first Paly wrestling team to win a league meet championship in 25 years by capturing the SCVAL Championships at Wilcox High in Santa Clara.
Palo Alto's previous meet crown came in 1986. The Vikings also won the league dual-match title that season.
"In '86, I was in college and I think Tony (co-coach Tony Brewer) was already in Japan playing baseball," Paly coach Dave Duran recalled. "The next one better not take that long!"
Duran and Brewer had their team primed for a title after it finished 5-1 in the dual-match season, finishing behind only Los Gatos (6-0). The Vikings spent the week leading up to the league finals working on three things that Duran hoped might make a difference.
The first was to wrestle well in the first round. The second involved Paly's big point scorers — all had to perform well, including Ryan Oshima, who was just coming back from a knee injury. And the third?
"We had to wrestle tough and perform well in the wrestle-backs," Duran said.
Palo Alto evidently accomplished all three goals because the Vikings scored 190.00 points and captured the 15-team tournament championship on Saturday. Cupertino was second with 180.50 while Los Gatos was fourth with 170.00, trailing third-place Fremont (175.00). Gunn, the SCVAL El Camino champ, was seventh with 96.50 points.
"We will enjoy this and get back to work," Duran said. "We have two weeks to prepare for CCS."
Duran was not only pleased with how things turned out, but with how his athletes performed.
"The boys wrestled," Duran said. "We were the leader after the first round of wrestling. Our big point scorers performed — three champions, three third-place finishes, five more CCS qualifiers through the wrestle-backs."
Palo Alto finished with 11 qualifiers for CCS — "the most we've ever had," Duran said. "All this with eight of the 14 competing in their first varsity finals (and only one senior).
"Going into the medal round we up two points on Cupertino and 10 points on Fremont. We had three in the finals, 'Tino four, and Fremont five. We had eight more in the wrestle backs. We knew if we had one more solid round of wrestling, we would win the tournament. The medal round was our best round of the tournament."
Palo Alto has been close before, finishing third last season.
"This year," Duran said, "we finally got it done."
Paly's three champions were junior Joey Christopherson (121), junior Nick Ortiz (127) and junior Kalen Gans (162). Christopherson won his title with a 5-1 decision, Ortiz won with a 3-0 decision and Gans was victorious with a 4-2 decision. Oshima was third at 154 and Tochez finished third at 217. The top six finishers all qualified for CCS.
Paly's other CCS qualifiers were Trent Marshall, sixth at 132; Gunnar Felt, sixth at 142; Jared Swezey-Gleason, fifth at 147; Erik Anderson, fifth at 173; Andrew Frick, fourth at 191 and Drazovich, sixth at 287.
Gunn qualified six for the CCS tournament, but surprisingly had no individual champions. Top-seeded senior Stefan Weidemann, who came in undefeated and ranked among the best in the state at 154 pounds, opened with a pin in 2:24 and registered a 20-3 technical fall in the semifinals. In the finals, however, Weidemann (20-1) was upset by Ian Messaros of Cupertino. Messaros won by a pin in just 1:09 of the first round.
Gunn freshman Cadence Lee was fourth at 105 pounds. She won the girls' CCS title in her weight division last weekend and thus has earned a berth in the girls' state championships.
Gunn's other CCS qualifiers were Daniel Papp, fifth at 114; Eric Cramer, sixth at 121; Miko Mallari, fifth at 137; and Julian Calderon, fourth at 162.
Junior Andre Delagnes (119 pounds) and senior Joji Kameda (152) both won their divisions to help Menlo-Atherton finish fourth on Saturday at Burlingame High. The Bears scored 85 points to trail South San Francisco (183), Half Moon Bay (164) and El Camino (147).
Delagnes improved to 33-6 while Kameda moved to 24-8 on the season. Both are hoping for high seeds for the upcoming CCS Championships in two weeks. M-A freshman Anthony Andrighetto also qualified for CCS by taking second at 103 pounds while his brother, junior Dino, took third at 125 and is hoping to advance to CCS as an alternate. Senior Austin Escobedo was fourth at 215 pounds for the second straight season.
Kendra Wiley followed up her third-place finish at the Girls' CCS Wrestling Championships by winning the 124-pound title in the Girls' PAL Championships. She'll now get ready for the state championships after winning her fourth title of the season while improving to 21-1.