Friday, December 21, 2012

Wrestling Preview: Franklin Looks Strong


For many years the top local wrestling team has been Elk Grove and every other high school maybe had one or two guys who could place high at either the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I meet or perhaps get a medal at the Section Masters.

But, as a team it’s always been Elk Grove that scored high.

This winter the Herd will be another strong team on the mats, but right alongside of them on the medal stands will be wrestlers from Franklin.

That prospect has Wildcat coach Fred Marks, who is entering his sixth season at Franklin, gleaming with joy.

He’ll have a better idea of how good a team he has this season after this weekend. The Wildcats are participating at the Folsom Jailbreak Duals, where the host Folsom squad will probably be the team to beat.

Marks has the Section’s top 120-pound wrestler in Josh Villaflor and an excellent 126-pounder, too, in Antonio Jimenez. Those two guys face off many times against each other in practice.

“To watch those two are just plain fun,” Marks said.

But, Marks also has a couple top-flight guys wrestling at heavier weight classifications, too. Joey Banks, who was one of the top linebackers in the Delta Valley Conference this season, is also a terrific wrestler. He’s competing this season at 182 pounds and will use the kind of play he demonstrated on the football field on the mat this winter.

“He has good athletic abilitiy, a natural feel for where he’s going and is extremely aggressive and powerful,” Marks said.

Another member of that Wildcat football team that went 12-1 this year is Tyler Hecht who is going to be one of the best heavyweight wrestlers. Currently, the California Wrestler website ranks him fourth-best in the Section.




Marks’ top-flight wrestlers continue through just about every weight class including 106-pounder Evan Fong, a freshman Marks calls, “lightning fast” and 132-pounder Ali Kahn.

“We’ve got only a couple weak weight classifications this season, at least right now,” Marks said. Wrestlers to also watch will be Adam Borges (138), D.J. Harper (160) and Robby Nickerson (172).

This strong group should translate into several dual wins and perhaps a few top-five tournament finishes this year for the Wildcat grapplers. Plus, it means that a dual match not to miss will be Jan. 16 when Elk Grove hosts Franklin. That will determine which school will win the Delta Valley Conference championship.

Elk Grove has won every Delta League/DVC title since 2003, Herd head coach Pat Coffing’s second season at the school. Himself a former Herd wrestler, Coffing’s tough style and hard work has once again brought another solid team to the mats.

The Herd has won the Section’s Division I team duals championship twice in Coffing’s tenure and has been the runner-up six times.

A year ago a school-record eight boys qualified for the State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield, but none of them placed. That was a huge disappointment for Coffing who had the state’s top-ranked 126-pound wrestler in Martin Ramirez. Still, the season was a landmark one for Ramirez because he won his third Section Masters’ individual championship, a feat only duplicated one other time – when Coffing’s younger brother Adam won three Masters’ gold medals in the 1990’s.

Now Ramirez is grappling for small-school power Adams State College in Colorado and the team leadership seems to be sitting in the laps of 195-pounder Scott Votino. The senior is a two-time state qualifier at 170 pounds, but now is wrestling 25 pounds heavier. 

EGHS wrestler Davis Hallberg
Elk Grove also has one of the Section’s top 152-pounder in Braden Henderson and the number-one ranked heavyweight in Jaharee Taylor. Impressive in a couple of the early tournaments has been 114-pounder Tristan Scott and 120-pounder Ethan Larrabee. Watch for 138-pound wrestler Davis Hallberg to make some noise this season.  

“I am please with us right now,” Coffing said following a win of the Curt Mettler Invitational two weeks ago and a second-place finish at the Zehnder Duals a week later. “I think we can always improve, but the kids are at a point where they know who they can prepare for.”

One of those squads will be Folsom, a favorite to once again win the Delta River  League title. Last season Folsom was the Division I runner-up in the Section’s team dual championships.

This season the Bulldogs will be led by 170-pounder Devin Nooner, 106-pounder Carlos Alvarez and 160-pounder Nick Fiegener. Both are right near the top of their weight classes in the Section and have started the year very well. Also watch for 145-pounder Lorenzo de la Riva.

Sheldon will be led by heavyweight Sam Alnassiri, Paul Gaulman at 152 pounds, Marcus Von Schoech at 138 pounds and Chris Reese at 170 pounds.

Eric Carda, a heavyweight, will lead Pleasant Grove’s grapplers this season. Josh Davis will be Cosumnes Oaks’ top wrestler. He’s a heavyweight, too.

Once again the powerhouse team in the Section will be Vacaville. Nine of their 14 wrestlers are ranked in the top eight in their individual weight class. The Bulldogs have won eight of the last ten Section team dual titles and have the top-ranked team again this season.
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