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NU sends a dozen to Metro final

A brand new season begins on Saturday when the Nevada Union wrestling team takes to the mats for the Metro League Tournament in Sacramento.

Luke Manuel and Zach Callas will lead the Miners into the tournament, which gets under way at 10 a.m. at Hiram Johnson High School, in the first step on a road heading south toward the CIF State Championships on March 3-4 in Bakersfield.

“This is the most exciting time of year,” Nevada Union coach Shane Valdez said. “This is everything we’ve trained for. Everything else, all of the tournaments and duals, have just been practice for this.”



Team scores won’t matter. At this point, wrestlers are looking to place among the top four in their respective weight classes and qualifying to their sub-section tournament next weekend at Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo.

“This is a good tournament, especially for our younger kids,” said Valdez, who will field a lineup of 12 varsity wrestlers. “We should have a lot of qualifiers.”




Start with Manuel and Callas, league champions as juniors a year ago, who are now seeded as the men to beat in their respective 152- and 160-pound weight classes.

Manuel, who has been ranked either first or second statewide all season, comes in with a 34-1 record with gold medals at the high-powered Five Counties Invitational in Orange County and the Asics Foothill Tournament in Sacramento. Last year, he placed sixth at state as a 135-pounder.

Callas, also a state qualifier last season, is 33-3 and ranked among the state’s top 10 at 162 pounds. He is currently listed No. 3 in the Manteca Journal’s section rankings behind blue chippers Justin Danz of Ponderosa and Victor Carazo of Grace Davis.

“Zach’s a very talented wrestler,” Valdez said. “That is going to be a loaded weight class at section. But throughout the state, there’s six to eight guys who are pretty solid and no one guy has separated himself from the rest. I’m hoping Zach might be that one guy.”

Two other Nevada Union wrestlers figure to be in the hunt for league gold on Saturday – Matt Manuel at 119 pounds and Jake Cena at either 114 or 125 pounds. Matt Manuel is currently listed as the No. 5 119-pounder in the section by the Manteca Journal.

“Jake has grown a lot this year,” Valdez said. “He’s getting taller and starting to fill out, so it’s been a challenge to determine what weight class we’re going to put him at.”

Senior Kyle Brady, a third-place finisher at league last year, comes in as the No. 2 seed at 145 pounds. Other wrestlers to keep an eye on include 103-pounder Joey Stickney, 130-pounder Cody Griffith, 135-pounder Brett Shauffler (a second-year wrestler) and 189-pounder Bill Atherton.

Atherton has gold-medal potential.

“He’s tough enough to win league,” Valdez said of the junior. “That should be a real interesting weight class. It’s very balanced, and Bill is right there in the mix.”

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


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