Wrestling falls to Fremont in first home dual

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Palo Alto High School junior Josh Wilde goes head to head with his opponent during the Vikings’ 51-17 loss to Fremont Tuesday at home. Head coach Jon Kessler said the team is going to continue training after this loss. “We’re gonna get back into the practice room tomorrow and we’re gonna work hard,” Kessler said. (Photo: Jonathan Chen)

Jonathan Chen and Avi Srinivasan

In the first home dual meet of the season, the Palo Alto High School varsity wrestling team lost to the Fremont Firebirds, 51-17, Tuesday night. 

Coming into the dual, the Vikings were at a disadvantage due to a lack of varsity wrestlers. The Vikings didn’t have wrestlers for five weight classes, resulting in automatic forfeits for those matches and giving Fremont a whopping 30-point advantage from the start. According to Viking senior co-captain Cade Creighton, these shortages can be attributed to the impact of COVID.

“Our team’s not very big right now, there’s a lot of guys out with COVID,” Creighton said. “So we didn’t come in with super high expectations, but the guys who are here were working on a lot of new stuff.” 

COVID has also affected the Vikings’ season as a whole. According to Viking senior co-captain Ella Jauregui, the recent rise of cases due to the Omicron variant has been causing challenges in her season.

“Just recently, I had [a tournament in] Napa canceled, which is one of the biggest tournaments of the season for girls,” Jauregui said.

Head coach Jon Kessler echoed their sentiments by saying that a lack of wrestlers has always been an issue for the team.

“We’ve lost kids [who quit] over the years, so that’s always tough on the program,” Kessler said. 

The shortages on the team forced underclassmen to wrestle against more experienced varsity wrestlers, which was not ideal, according to Kessler.

“[I] can’t be satisfied with that outing, but Fremont High School’s a good wrestling team, and we’re a young wrestling team,” Kessler said. “That’s always tough on the programming when you got to put out freshmen wrestlers that are not varsity wrestlers.”

Despite these challenges, the Vikings did start off strong, winning the first match of the evening with junior Josh Wilde pinning his opponent off of a 7-2 lead. 

Later on in the dual, senior co-captain Max Felter won his match by technical fall with a final score of 19-5, adding 5 points to the cumulative team score.

The Vikings won the next match as well, with Creighton swiftly pinning his opponent, adding another 6 points to the team’s score.

According to Creighton, his match in the dual was not especially important for him.

 “These aren’t super hard for me,” Creighton said. “I kind of use these as tools to practice the moves that I want to hit in [other matches]. And so it’s really fun. For me, I’m enjoying my senior season, the last time in high school before I go to college.”

Jauregui also won her match in the girls’ division. Jauregui said finding holes in her opponent’s defense helped her win. 

“I found two weaknesses pretty quickly,” Jauregui said. “I could have opened up more — I could have gone to my shots faster, but overall, I did a pretty solid job.”

Kessler said he has high hopes for the league tournament in February, assuming it isn’t canceled. 

“We got about four or five wrestlers potentially making it to state — we already have one returning state qualifier,” Kessler said. “If everything falls the right way, then we’re sending four to five to the state tournament and hopefully they’re all coming home with medals.”

Paly’s next dual is against Lynbrook High School at 6 p.m. Thursday at Lynbrook.