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Thoughts on prep playoffs

Nevada Union wrestling coach Shane Valdez hit the nail right on the head earlier this week when he described this as “The most exciting time of year.”

That’s true for winter sports prep athletes not only in California, but across the nation, as they embark on a postseason trail that leads toward their respective state championships. In California, the road is particularly challenging, given the sheer size of the state.

Just ask any wrestler who has been to a state tournament here. First, you must get out of league, then sub-sections and then sections. That’s three tournaments -often times three intense weeks in a row – just to get to the state tournament, which will take place March 3-4 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield (the CIF has announced Rabobank will remain the home for the CIF State Wrestling Championships through the 2009 season).



Valdez, a California state champion himself at Calvary Chapel High in Southern California and a three-time All-American at the University of Oklahoma, will watch the Nevada Union Miners take their first step today when the Metro League Tournament is held at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento.

The Miners have two standouts who made it to Bakersfield last year – Luke Manuel and Zach Callas. Manuel is listed No. 1 in the state in the 152-pound weight class by thecaliforniawrestler.com – he has split two matches against No. 2 Jason Welch of Las Lomas (Walnut Creek) and is 2-0 against No. 4 Willy Pendleton of Lemoore. Callas is on the honorable mention list at 160 pounds, and two of the top eight are wrestlers from within the Sac-Joaquin Section.




Nevada Union wrestling fans obviously have good cause to be excited about these next three weeks, including the sub-section tournament next week in Vallejo and then the section tournament in Folsom.

Then again, you must remember, there are no guarantees this time of year. Like Bear River coach Robert Nebeker said, “At this time of year, anything can happen.” It certainly can, and that’s what makes this time of year so special.

One of my own favorite memories dates back to the 1975 season. South Tahoe High School had a good senior 194-pounder, Dave Jack, who turned in a very respectable showing to place third at his sub-section tournament. He was even better the following week when he placed third at the section tournament and qualified for state in Bakersfield.

Bakersfield turned out to be quite a ride, too. The South Tahoe wrestler listened to his coach talk during the drive about the benefits of having a positive attitude, and he took the words to heart – all the way to a second-place finish.

That performance got Jack to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he became a two-time NCAA Western Regional champion. And in time, he earned a berth on the U.S. Junior World Team, won three Far Western Open freestyle titles and placed sixth at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Trials.

It’s amazing how a little positive thinking can go a long way.

Interestingly enough, Jack can still be seen at wrestling tournaments around the Sac-Joaquin Section because his son, Clayton Jack, is a highly-ranked junior 215-pounder for Vacaville.

Stay tuned, it should be fun to see how everything turns out.

ooo

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


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