It wasn’t too long ago that wrestling on the Peninsula did not command much respect. Other than a few tradition-rich squads, the Peninsula Athletic League, especially, had a number of schools that had trouble filling all 14 weight classes.
With the growth of the club wrestling scene on the Peninsula, however, a lot more skilled wrestlers are coming into high school ready to compete.
In 2014, there might not be a better public school league — top to bottom — as strong as the PAL’s Bay Division. There are also a number of up-and-coming programs in the Ocean Division pushing for a spot in the Bay.
And regardless of the team, the PAL is loaded with individual talent across the league.
The Bay Division is loaded with perennial champion Half Moon Bay, which is ranked 11th in the Central Coast Section, according to ccsrank.com. The Cougars have the most individually ranked wrestlers in the league, with nine. Their two big boys — Marcus Sarabia at 220 and Jose Ayon at heavyweight — have the two highest ranks of any individual in the county. Sarabia is ranked fourth in his division, while Ayon is fifth. Joining the Cougars are perennial contenders El Camino, South City and Terra Nova. The newcomers this season are Capuchino and Sequoia. The Mustangs appear most ready to make the jump from the Ocean to the Bay, with ranked wrestlers at 126, 145 and 195.
El Camino looks to have the manpower to challenge Half Moon Bay for the Bay Division throne. The Colts feature six ranked wrestlers, including 120-pounder Christian Diokno, who is ranked sixth. It appears to be a bit of a rebuilding year for defending Bay Division champion Terra Nova. Junior Justin Pesino is the Tigers’ only ranked wrestler, who is No. 10 at 113 pounds.
The Tigers, however, seem to just reload every year, so don’t be surprised to see them playing a role in deciding the Bay Division title.
South City will give as good as gets, just as it does every year and has three seniors — Kevin Perez, Will Nicholls and Dupra Goodman — all back ready to compete for individual PAL titles. Goodman finished eighth at CCS last year at 170 and is looking for a PAL championship this season after a third-place finish last year.
Menlo-Atherton has to be considered the favorite in the Ocean Division. The Bears have seven ranked wrestlers, led by senior Anthony Andrighetto, who is ranked 10th at 120 pounds. Austin Wilson (132) and Sam Stroud (170) also are ranked 10th in their respective classes.
Look for Oceana to make a run at the title as well. Josue Gazo, a sophomore, is ranked 17th at 126, while Sandeep Singh (106) and Joey Nguyen (152) were both honorable mentions.
And while not every team will contend, eight of the 13 teams in the PAL were represented in the ccsrank.com ranking. Even a school that does not field a team, San Mateo, had an individual receive a ranking. Senior Cesar Garcia was an honorable mention at 195 pounds.
Serra is going through a bit a rebuilding year after winning the West Catholic Athletic League regular-season championship last season. The WCAL is no cake walk and anything short of the best won’t get it done.
But the Padres’ cupboard is far from bare. They have a pair of seniors and two juniors who are ranked this season, led by senior Sean Clarke, who is ranked sixth at 145. The Padres’ junior varsity and freshmen squads finished first and second, respectively, in the WCAL last year, so look for Serra to be back in contention for a varsity title in the coming years.
The PAL Ocean Division season kicks off today with Oceana at Hillsdale, Woodside at Menlo-Atherton and Aragon at Burlingame, with varsity matches starting around 7. The PAL Bay doesn’t start until next week, as does Serra. The Padres open their WCAL schedule at Bellarmine next Wednesday. The first round of PAL Bay begins next Thursday, with Terra Nova at Sequoia, El Camino at Half Moon Bay and Capuchino hosting South City.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117 or by email: email@example.com. You follow him on Twitter@CheckkThissOutt.