Fresh faces on mat |

Fresh faces on mat

Eileen JoyceFreshman Drew Maraglia (in gray) wrestles sophomore Michael Halby during practice at Nevada Union Tuesday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The first day freshman Drew Maraglia walked into Nevada Union’s wrestling room, he knew things had changed.

No longer was he the big wrestler for a middle school program. Gone were the days when he wrestled against opponents not quite so intense or so aggressive, with muscle to match.

He was walking through the doors of a high school program, and not just any high school program, but one with a current string of 72 straight victories in league dual-meet competition.

And Maraglia walked right into the starting lineup. He is one of 11 sophomores or freshman currently starting for the Miners varsity team. The fresh faces face the daunting task of keeping the impressive winning streak intact against teams that are stocked with juniors and seniors.

“I’m a little nervous about trying to win my matches to help contribute to the team and the 72 wins,” Maraglia said.

NU wrestling coach Steve Pilcher hopes his squad will not focus on the 11-year-old Capital Athletic League mark as they move through league play, which began with a victory over Davis Jan. 3, and begins to heat up today in a meet with host El Camino.

El Camino, Bella Vista and Casa Roble should battle with NU this season for league supremacy.

“The nice thing about this year is that for the first time in a while, we are probably the underdog,” Pilcher said. “Right now, we are just worried about building, building, more and more, and then at the end of the year we’ll see where we are at.”

As of last weekend, the Miners are in pretty good company, finishing third as a team out of 24 teams at a tournament in Tracy. Sophomore Wade Sauer won the tournament at 215 pounds, improving his mark to 19-3 in the process.

“When he gets control of that big strong body, he is very effective,” Pilcher said. “He has a lot of talent, and is very good on his feet for a big man.”

Sauer is not the lone anomaly to conventional wisdom that states that freshman and sophomores only contribute to varsity programs at the lowest weights. Sophomore Dan Smith improved his mark to 17-3 at least weekend’s tournament, taking third place at 140 pounds. Smith moved to the area from Vacaville last year.

“Dan has maybe the most God-given talent on the team,” Pilcher said. “He has great balance, a natural wrestler, and you can’t teach that.”

Among the other underclass wrestlers making their mark on the varsity lineup are Patrick Cronan (soph.-103), Robert McDaniel (soph.-112), Nolan Walters (soph.-119), Michael Halby (soph.-130), Jonathon Bird (fresh.-135), Buddy Brady (soph.-145), Melvin Bird (soph.-152) and Dan Skeen (soph.-160/171).

Freshman Michael Flores and Nic Murray are just a pair of underclass wrestlers who may also see some varsity mat time this season as well. Pilcher said injured freshman wrestler Nick Hudspeth, who wrestled at the season-opening tournament at Bella Vista, has a bright future as well.

Pilcher said this group and other young wrestlers on the team have great dedication and work ethic; what he hopes to develop in them are their wrestling technique and savvy on the mats.

“The experience factor is definitely an issue,” said 130-pound Halby, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle.

“If someone has more experience than you, you can definitely tell,” he said. “But if you just work hard, you can stay with them.”

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