High hopes for wrestling season

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

Paly wrestling coach David Duran hopes his team will place among the top three in its league this season.

The team possesses a combination of experience and youth which Duran hopes will be the key to their success.

Last year, the Vikings qualified nine wrestlers to Central Coast Section championships, where then-junior John Hall took second place, which qualified him for the state championships, where Hall placed eighth.

This year, Hall captains the team with two other returning seniors: Uly Morales and Kyle Bristol. Despite only having three seniors, Duran has faith in his athletes’ abilities.

“Some of these kids have been [wrestling] with us for six years,” Duran said. “They started with us at Jordan.”

Duran admits that the league is “good.” Both Fremont and Los Altos high schools are among the top three teams at CCS. In the past the Paly team has placed in the middle of the upper league.

Duran hopes to qualify 14 wrestlers, one from each weight class, to CCS. To do so, he is relying on the depth of the squad, including sophomores Kasey Fields and Pat Sheehan, juniors Copper Newby and Ryan Drener, and seniors Hall, Morales and Bristol. Duran calls Sheehan and Newby “leaders.”

Hall is focused on winning the State championships this year. Fields, Hall and junior Ryan Drebin went to Minnesota this summer to attend wrestling camp.

The team has 35 wrestlers, ranging from freshmen to seniors, 14 of whom are on varsity wrestling. Eight of the wrestlers who move up to varsity later are still playing football. Each varsity wrestler competes in one of the 14 weight classes, which range from 145 pounds to 285 pounds.

The team practices Monday through Friday, for about 3 hours a day. Matches take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and last from about 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

During practice, the wrestlers warm up, practicing take downs, escapes and footwork, which Duran considers to be the most critical parts of wrestling.

“If you can take a guy down, escape and get away, you will win most of your matches,” Duran said.

Practice gives the athletes little time to relax, because they are either working out or cooling down for the entire time.

Despite the variety of ages on the team, team chemistry is “pretty good”, according to Duran, although he jokes that if the younger wrestlers get “squirrelly, they get squashed pretty good.”