After disappointing loss in CCS, Viking wrestling looks to '09

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

The Palo Alto Vikings’ wrestling team is looking forward to next season after a disappointing regular season and a sub-par showing in the Central Coast Section tournament.

Paly placed fifth in the De Anza League and failed to send any wrestlers to state. They had four wrestlers who could have, and arguably should have, advanced. To advance to the state tournament, an individual has to place in the top four at the CCS tournament.

“As coaches, we get disappointed for the kids because we know they put a lot of work in,” head coach David Duran said.

Senior leaders Cooper Newby, Ryan Drebin and Kevin Hall and junior standout Patrick Sheehan were the four Viking wrestlers who could have made states but didn’t make the cut at the season-ending tournament.

“We all lost tough matches,” Sheehan said. “It’s just sad some of our seniors didn’t reach their goals that they worked hard for throughout high school.”

Kevin Hall had the best Viking finish, placing fifth in the 189-lb weight class.

The three star seniors will all be wrestling in college next year. While Hall and Newby are undecided about college, Drebin has already committed to wrestling for Brown University next season.

The Vikings’ poor performance in league can be attested to their small roster, which isn’t ideal for league duals, according to Duran. Close duals were lost to Cupertino, Freemont, and Milpitas.

“Typically we’re a better tournament team because we don’t always fill in the lineup,” Sheehan said.

In a “dual” meet, there are a certain number of wrestling weight class spots to be filled. With limited players, as on the Paly team, empty weight class spots are either filled by junior varsity players or forfeited. This is compared to tournament play, where schools are awarded points as individuals advance. This benefits a team like Paly that has a few quality wrestlers, even though they may lack overall quantity of wrestlers.

“We also play in a pretty good league,” Duran said. “We definitely would have gotten first or second if we were in the El Camino division.”

Other “point getters,” as Duran referred to them, included senior Elliot Wilson, juniors Kacey Fields and Cris Tang, and sophomore Max Simon. They will look to many of these wrestlers to fill the voids left by Hall, Newby and Drebin.

Gilroy had two players win their weight class in states this year and, for the fifth year in a row, Gilroy won the League CCS tournament

For most high school wrestlers, their first freshman and sophomore years are an introduction to the sport. This is not the case with Gilroy.

“When their [Gilroy’s] wrestlers come into high school, they’ve already wrestled in hundreds of matches,” Duran said. “It’s all based on experience.”

The Vikings will continue preparing for next season by trying to gain some of the same experience that Duran feels makes Gilroy so good. Many Viking wrestlers will play “freestyle wrestling” this off-season. While players are not encouraged to monitor their weight or train as hard during this time, it does provide them with the experience vital to winning.

“Luckily I have another year,” Sheehan said. “We can all learn from our losses and look to improve for next season.”