HS wrestling preview, 2019: M.V.C. looks for top-3 finish at CCS behind strong returning class

Monte Vista Christian sophomore Christian Cabuag, left, leads a strong squad that is ranked third in the Central Coast Section. — Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian

Monte Vista Christian last year had five wrestlers place at the Central Coast Section tournament, helping the Mustangs place a team-best fifth.

Four of those five wrestlers return, and so do a pair of CCS qualifiers, giving M.V.C. the aspirations of a top-three finish at this year’s section tournament.

Sophomore Christian Cabuag, juniors Amit Klair and Edward Zamora and senior Amman Klair are the stars of an M.V.C. team that is currently ranked third in CCSrank.com’s CCS rankings. All four placed at last year’s section tournament, and two — Cabuag and Amman Klair — advanced to state.

CCS qualifiers Justin Tepoorten and Nathan Fernandez are also back for M.V.C., and the latter is expected to be in the mix for a trip to state come CCS time along with his four aforementioned teammates. Fernandez, a sophomore, is ranked fourth in the CCS at 220 pounds, and Cabuag, Zamora and the Klairs are also ranked in the top four of their weight divisions.

Cabuag is the top wrestler in the CCS at 113 pounds, and is fresh off a stellar freshman season in which he won a league title in the now-defunct Monterey Bay League, and finished second at CCS. His road back to a section final, however, will be even tougher this season, as his three biggest competitors — Jayden Gomez (Gilroy), Javier Torres (Live Oak) and Zachary Thompson (Palma) — all started the year ranked among the top 15 in the state.

He’ll see Gomez and Thompson throughout the season, as both Gilroy and Palma compete in the Gabilan division of the Pacific Coast Athletic League, the new 33-school super league created last season, alongside M.V.C.

Amman Klair is ranked second in the CCS at 152 pounds. Wrestling at 138 pounds last season, he placed fourth at MBL finals, but bounced back with a third-place finish at CCS to advance to state. Klair has improved at CCS in each season, taking fourth the season prior and posting a 3-2 record as a freshman.

His younger brother Amit Klair is ranked third at 120 pounds, and Zamora is ranked fourth at 138 pounds. The former last season took fourth at CCS at 106 pounds, but has bulked up a bit and is wrestling at his true weight this winter. Zamora, a two-time section qualifier, also moved up a weight class a year after finishing runner-up in the MBL and placing sixth at CCS at 126 pounds.

Here is a look at the rest of the local wrestling teams:

APTOS

Longtime head coach Reggie Roberts is gone, but the Mariners and new head coach Rudy Guzman — an assistant under Roberts since 2003 — still have hopes of winning their ninth Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title in the last 10 years.

The Aptos boys are ranked 23rd in the CCS, and have a trio of wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight division. The girls are not ranked as a team, but do have three that carry a top-10 CCS ranking.

Senior Alex Zacarias is finally healthy and has skyrocketed up the rankings to fourth at 106 pounds after impressive showings at the inaugural Don Bosco Invitational (1st) and Pat Lovell Holiday Wrestling Classic (3rd).

Fellow seniors Marcos Reyes and Tyler Slay are also ranked in the top 10. Reyes is eighth at 182 pounds, and Slay is 10th at 170. Both finished runner-up at the SCCAL championships last season, and are expected to be the runaway favorites at this year’s league finals in their respective divisions.

Juniors James Platero (220 pounds) and Luke Keaschall (145) are also coming off runner-up finishes at last year’s SCCAL championships, and are expected to be in the mix at the end of the year. Platero is ranked 13th in CCS, and Keaschall is ranked 19th.

The Mariners also boast sophomore Elijah Rodriguez (285), who is ranked 19th.

On the girls’ side, junior Camila Barranco is ranked fourth at 111 pounds, and is looking to improve on her fifth-place finish at last year’s CCS meet. She’s placed at CCS each of the last two years.

Senior Sue Minuth is also back for Aptos a year after taking fourth at CCS. She is ranked fourth at 170 pounds.

Sophomore Alexandra Quintero finished 2-2 at CCS last winter, and is ranked 10th at 150 pounds.

NORTH MONTEREY COUNTY

Jesse Ramos (136 pounds, 14th) and Lazaro Martinez (170, 15th) are North Monterey County’s lone ranked wrestlers, but Arturo Perez (156) and Andrew Bernabe (142) have also impressed for the Condors during the early season.

Izzy Altowiti (110) and Ruben Cornejo (117) will also be in the running for a CCS tournament berth.

Sophomores Valeria Ramirez and Carli Orozco, meanwhile, lead the Condors on the girls side. Ramirez is ranked ninth at 131 pounds, while Orozco is ranked 12th at 101. Both competed at CCS last season.

PAJARO VALLEY

Junior Rigoberto Herrejon is ranked 18th in the CCS at 195 pounds a year after taking third in the MBL at the same weight and earning a spot in the CCS tournament.

Herrejon has wrestled well through the first month of the season, showcasing his skills recently with an eighth-place finish at the Apple Cider Classic.

Teammates Alejandro Vasquez (224) and Raymond Gallardo (195) have helped pushed Herrejon, and given the Grizzlies a formidable class of wrestlers, which also includes Marcos Aguilar (285) and J.J. Briseno (195), to compete against Carmel, Gonzales, Monterey, N.M.C., North Salinas, Pacific Grove and Watsonville in the PCAL-Mission.

ST. FRANCIS

The Sharks return a pair of SCCAL champions in Justin Parker and Hunter Blinkenberg, and both wrestlers will try to repeat as league champions this winter in the PCAL-Cypress, which also features Christopher, Greenfield, King City and Soledad.

Parker will wrestle at 152 pounds this season, and Blinkenberg will compete at 160. The former is ranked sixth in the CCS at his weight class, while the latter is ranked 19th.

Parker has made the CCS meet in each of the last two seasons.

WATSONVILLE

The Wildcatz have a pair of upperclassmen in junior Joaquin Mosqueda and senior Luke Meyers that are poised to have solid seasons. They also have a trio of senior female wrestlers in Angela Torres, Chardonnay Coates and Dafny Lopez that will have a shot at placing at CCS this season.

Mosqueda is Watsonville’s highest ranked male wrestler, coming in at sixth at 126 pounds. He won the MBL championship at 106 pounds as a freshman, but took fourth last season before going on to finish with a 3-2 record at CCS for the second consecutive season.

Meyers has slowly climbed up the rankings at 152 pounds over the first few weeks of the season. He currently sits at seventh after a third-place finish at the Pat Lovell Holiday Wrestling Classic. Wrestling at 145 pounds last season, Meyers took fourth in the MBL and placed in the top eight at CCS.

Senior Tyson George is ranked 19th at 132 pounds, but has a very good chance of earning his third trip to CCS this winter — he went 2-2 at the section tournament last season.

Freshman Vicente Mosqueda has been a nice surprise for coach Josh Castillo. Ranked 14th at 120 pounds, Mosqueda gives the Wildcatz a building block for the future.

Torres and Lopez were both absent from the CCS meet last season, but have earned a top-eight ranking through their strong wrestling during the early season. Torres is ranked third at 101 pounds following a third-place finish at the Overfelt Lady Royals tournament in early December, and Lopez is ranked eighth at 143 pounds after placing at the Half Moon Bay Peninsula Invitational and Lynbrook Ladies Challenge.

Lopez advanced to the CCS quarterfinals as a sophomore, but did not wrestle last season.

Coates is ranked 13th at 131 pounds, and sophomore Michelle Gomez also carries a ranking, holding 12th at 150 pounds.

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