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Sonoma Valley High grapplers face new competition

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They’ve been practicing since the last week of October, so the Sonoma Valley High wrestling Dragons are hungry for some competition.

And they’ll finally get some competition Saturday when they wrestle in the Green and Gold Tournament at San Marin.

This year, Coach Nico Saldana has a roster of 28, which is the biggest roster since he took over the reins three years ago.

The Dragons will be experienced this year with eight returnees who qualified for the North Coast Section Meet last year. And that includes senior Tyler Winslow who qualified for the state meet at 220 pounds and finished in the top 16.

But Winslow won’t be ready to wrestle this weekend. He’s still recovering from a groin injury he suffered in football. And Saldana isn’t sure when he’ll be able to wrestle.

“You can’t hide that type of injury,” he said. “And there’s no point in starting him before he’s ready.” Saldana is hoping Winslow will be ready to wrestle at the Joe Rios Tournament in Chico the first weekend in December. “They’ll have two of the top three ranked wrestlers (in his weight class) in the state there,” Saldana said. “It’ll be a great barometer.”

Also, the following weekend the Dragons will be hosting the Deets Winslow Memorial Tournament, named after Tyler’s late father.

NCS qualifies who are returning include seniors Macklyn Lis at 134 pounds, Daniel Gallo at 154, and Ryan Sherwood at 160. Sherwood missed all of last season because of a shoulder injury, but he was an NCS qualifier as a sophomore.

Junior NCS returnees include Hank Schoeningh at 182 and Ean Schiffman at 126, along with sophomores Lawson Lee at 152/160, and Grayson Geldert at 147/152.

Promising newcomers include sophomore Robert Greenslade at 140/145, and freshmen Talon Bragg at 106, Justin Borgnis at 132 and Jack Alcayaga at 152.

“Last weekend, we took 10 wrestlers to a JV tournament at Elsie Allen, and nine of the 10 placed in the tournament,” Saldana said.

While the Dragons should be solid in the middle weight classes, they are missing some classes. There’s nobody at 97 pounds nor is there a heavyweight. And until Winslow returns, there’s also nobody at 222.

“We’re packed in the middle,” Saldana said. “We’re going to be very competitive in the middle weights.”

He’s looking for continuing progress and growth from his veterans.

“It’s important that guys come back to the program,” he said. “That’s what builds a program. Some of these guys have been here two or three years and we expect to see some success.”

This year, Saldana is being assisted by Scooter McAllister, John Bartolome, Sam Demming and Elisa Coon.

The Dragons will also be facing some new competition this year in the new Vine Valley Athletic League. Sonoma was a perennial power in the now defunct Sonoma County League finishing second the last two years.

Saldana sees the new league as an upgrade since the Dragons will be facing bigger teams. The last couple of years in the SCL, Sonoma would win dual meets because other teams couldn’t field full teams. Last year, Winslow didn’t wrestle against an SCL opponent until the league meet because teams would either forfeit or have nobody in his weight class.

“Petaluma’s got 21 seniors, American Canyon has a roster of about 60, Casa has about 50 and both Napa and Vintage are solid,” the coach said.

“So we’re in both a new league and have a team full of veterans,” he said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

In the VVAL, the Dragons will be facing each school in the league in a dual meet before the league tournament in early February.

After Saturday’s tournament, the Dragons open league play on Dec. 19 at American Canyon and host their first dual meet against Casa on Jan. 2. Sonoma has three home VVAL duals.