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Gross, Pilcher to lead Miners

A couple of new yet familiar faces are coming back to take over the reins of Nevada Union wrestling next season.

Steve Pilcher, who guided the Miners to 14 league championships during his long and successful run as head coach, will come back to serve as co-coach with Paul Gross, a 1999 Nevada Union graduate who was involved with the program has worked as an assistant over the past two seasons.

Shane Valdez announced at the team’s awards banquet that he has stepped down after four seasons as head coach and plans to move back to Oklahoma, according to Pilcher. Valdez was an All-American wrestler at the University of Oklahoma.



Gross won back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section championships before he graduated from Nevada Union, then went on to wrestle for four seasons at Stanford.

” I’ll be back with my old high school coach and I’m psyched about it,” Gross said.




Pilcher, who will continue his duties as the school’s athletic director, is looking forward to coaching again. And he is looking forward to working with Gross, who is now 26.

“It’s going to be fun working with Paul,” Pilcher said. “This time we get to coach together instead of him being the student.

“It’s going to be good to get back on the mat again.”

Pilcher had a long, successful run as Nevada Union’s head coach before he stepped down at the end of the 2001-02 season. In 2002, the Miners had a streak of 75 consecutive league dual meet victories end, a streak that spanned 11 years.

This past season, Nevada Union won the Metro Conference team championship and eventually had two medalists at the state tournament in Bakersfield. Luke Manuel placed second at 154 pounds and Zach Callas sixth at 160 pounds. The future looks bright as well.

“There’s a bunch of great kids coming back,” Gross said. “I’ve been working with some of them kids during the freestyle season and they look good; and we have some good fresh blood coming in from the middle school programs. I don’t know what our expectations will be for next season since we’ve moving into a new league, but it will be a step up.”

Nevada Union will move from the Metro Conference to the Sierra Foothill League in 2006-07, and the move will mean head-to-head competition against such stellar programs as Oakmont, Rocklin, Woodcreek and Del Oro.

“That’s probably going to be one of the strongest (wrestling) leagues in Northern California,” Pilcher said.

Gross obtained his degree from Stanford in communications, but is now looking forward to completing work on his teaching credential.

“I was getting homesick so it’s great to be back here again and great to have a chance to give back to the community I grew up in,” Gross said.

“It seems like I’ve been here for so long. Some of the kids are so used to seeing me, they think I’ve been here forever, but I haven’t been here that long,” he added with a laugh.

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To contact sports editor Dave Price, e-mail davidp@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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