Miners send three to Bakersfield
It’s not as though Nevada Union has often been left on the outside looking in at the California State Wrestling Championships. After all NU has been represented at the state meet for the past several years.
Last season, the Miners even scored their first state champion, as NU’s Wade Sauer won California’s heavyweight crown after posting a 49-3 record in his senior season.
But perhaps the best measure of the strides the Miner program has made in the past few years is the number of NU wrestlers going to state.
For the second straight season, three Miners will make that trip to Bakersfield. And two of this year’s qualifiers joined Sauer on his journey to a state crown in 2004.
Both Luke Manuel and Drew Maraglia – as they expected – qualified for the state finals by claiming Sac-Joaquin Section Championships last weekend in Turlock.
They’ll be joined by Zach Callas, a first-time qualifier.
“I think the program is progressing,” said NU head coach Shane Valdez, himself a former state champion from Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana. “We’re starting to see a number of kids in the program who can make it at wrestling’s highest level.
“Wade was the first example of that, being the best in the state. Now that we’ve had one state champion, we hope to start turning out a bunch of them.”
Manuel, who posted a 38-14 record last season at 119 pounds, lost both of his matches in the state meet as a sophomore, falling to a pair of seniors – Jaime Rocha (Righetti High) 10-6 and Eric Orozco (Monache High) 8-2.
As a junior, Manuel has produced a 41-5 record, including a 5-0 mark last weekend at Turlock, in the 135-pound weight class. He defeated Justin Danz of Ponderosa 5-0 in the title bout.
Despite claiming the section crown, Manuel apparently didn’t fare well in the luck of the draw for this weekend’s tournament. While his NU teammates both won’t wrestle until the second round, Manuel’s name was drawn for one of the 135-pound “out brackets,” Valdez said. That essentially means he’d have to win six straight matches – one more than Callas or Maraglia – to claim the state championship.
His first round matchup is with Schuyler Palmer, a senior from Poway who placed third in the San Diego Section tournament. Alfonso Sanchez, a junior from McLane High School who placed fourth in the Central Section, awaits the winner.
“No one said the road to being a state champion is easy,” Valdez said. “His road does start off tougher, but at this point Luke doesn’t care who or when he wrestles. He just wants to win.”
Maraglia got plenty of action under the lights of Rabobank Arena (formerly Centennial Garden) in Bakersfield, wrestling five matches and winning three. He closed out his junior campaign with a 40-16 record at 135 pounds.
This year, Maraglia (35-4) wants more.
“All through high school, my goal has been to win state,” he said. “So, that’s what I’m going down there to do.
“Our coach has been telling me, Luke and Zach that it’s all about the attitude. You have to go in there believing that you can win this tournament, just like it was any other tournament.”
Speaking from experience, Maraglia admitted, that’s not an easy thing to do, standing shoulder to shoulder with the cream of California’s wrestling crop.
“It helps that I’ve been down there. It helps you build that confidence,” he said. “The first time down there, it’s kind of overwhelming. There are 10 mats down and tons of wrestlers walking around.
“The first time you go down there it’s pretty intense. But this time I’m going with more confidence, because I won’t have that stuff on my mind.
“All that matters is that one wrestling mat and that one wrestler in front of you.”
The first wrestler to stand before Maraglia in the 140-pound weight class Friday will be La Mirada junior Ryan Garrity, who placed seventh in the Southern Section.
For Callas (See “Prep Profile”), earning his first trip to state was something his could foresee well before the postseason ever rolled around. Valdez said the work he – as well as Manuel and Maraglia – put in during the offseason showed immediate improvement.
“I tell the guys that the biggest improvement is made in the summer and spring,” Valdez said. “These guys put in that time. I told them that ‘You’ll shock yourself in seeing how much of a better wrestler you become if you put in that time during the offseason.’
“I leave the goals they set up to them, rather than what I’d like to see them do. I know what they’re capable of, though, and I sure let them know what they’re capable of doing. And they’re seeing that now.”
Know and Go
California Wrestling State Championships
Rabobank Arena, Theater and Convention Center in Bakersfield
9 a.m. Friday and Saturday
How to get there: Take 1-80 west to Highway 99 South. Head south on Highway 99 to Bakersfield. Nearing Bakersfield, take the California Avenue exit. Travel three miles east on California Ave., then turning left on “N” Street to Rabobank Arena.
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