Sonoma Valley High wrestlers on Vine Valley league streak

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The members of the Sonoma Valley varsity wrestling team ended their regular duals season with two victories over Vine Valley rivals, which Coach Nico Saldana believes it shows the progress the boys have made over the year.

He pointed to freshman Jack Alcaya, in his first year with the Dragons, pinning Justin-Siena’s senior captain at the 172 weight on Jan. 30, when he was called upon to step in for ailing senior Daniel Gallo.

“Jack wrestled up a weight class from his natural 160-pound weight class and proved skill and technique can overcome size,” said Saldana. “Jack is part of a group of underclassmen we are excited to see develop and have ready for the future.”

The Justin-Siena dual found Sonoma Valley picking up 54 points for only 30 for Justin, although it wasn’t always such a shoo-in. Senior Tyler Winslow turned over the 222 weight class to Octavio Martinez, who won by forfeit; Winslow stepped up to the heavyweight 287 weight class – where it took him less than a minute to pin his opponent, J.P. Negueloua.

Then the Braves hit their comfort zone and rattled off four consecutive wins in the lower weights, until senior captain Macklyn Liss halted their momentum with “a gutsy performance,” in Saldana’s estimation. The match went over 5 minutes before Macklyn, who was still recovering from pneumonia, pinned Cadin Parlett in the 134 weight class.

Shortly afterward Zander Casillas pinned his opponent at 147, starting a string of seven Sonoma victories. Lawson Lee, Ryan Sherwood, Alcaya and Hank Schoeningh “did what was expected, wrestling well and getting the pins,” said the coach.

The win against Justin followed the high-profile MidCals Tournament in Gilroy, which saw four local boys make the trip to Gilroy to complete against top regional talent. But the Vine Valley streak began on Thursday, Jan. 24, when the Dragons edged out a narrow win over Vintage High of Napa, 41-39.

Vintage started strong by claiming the first three contests in their home hall before Sherwood, at 162, stopped their momentum with a 17-2 technical fall victory (winning by 15 points or more). Then Vintage took it back at 172 with a pin over Daniel Gallo, and Schoeningh returned the favor with a pin of his own over Alex Ortiz.

Seniors Sam Weisiger and Winslow added two more wins, at 197 and 222, but Sonoma had to forfeit at the heavyweight 287 class. It then turned to freshman Talon Bragg to put the close dual out of reach, by pinning his opponent Allison Lopez in the 108 weight class.

As Saldana and the team savor the dual victories, the coach pointed out how important it is not to give up a fall, because it gives the opposing team six points. “That’s why Lawson Lee’s match was so important,” said Saldana. “He wrestled Vintage’s top wrestler (Tucker Landue), who is highly ranked in the NCS, but only lost by decision, giving Vintage only threepoints.

“I am sure Lawson only sees the loss, but it is important to recognize Lawson’s efforts.”

For now, the Dragon wrestlers prepare for the VVAL Tournament, to be held next Saturday, Feb. 9, at American Canyon High School. The top three place winners go on to wrestle at the NCS tournament the following weekend, Feb. 15-16, in Union City.

“There will be no freebie qualifiers this year,” said Saldana. “Every wrestler who places in the top three will have earned their trip to NCS.”

Saldana has been head wrestling coach for three years, after coaching at other schools for 10 years before that. He points out that assistant coach Scooter McAllister had already been here when Saldana arrived from Windsor, where he coached varsity for six years.

His approach is to emphasize the positive, even in a lost match, and to find the winning position.

All this week the coach is preparing the athletes for the coming season climax, both in Saturday’s VVAL tourney and what lies beyond. The practice routine will be “easier on the bodies,” said Saldana, which means shorter practices and more focus on attaining winning positions.

“I truly believe if each varsity athlete wrestles to their potential, every one of them will be wrestling the following weekend,” said the coach.

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