Record number of wrestlers place in CCS Championships, one qualifies for states

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

Nick Ortiz, Kalen Gans, Ryan Oshima, and Joey Christopherson pose with their medals from the Central Coast Section Championships. – Courtesy of Butch Garcia The Palo Alto High School wrestling team (5-1) concluded the Central Coast Section Championships with four wrestlers placing in the top six of their respective weight divisions, in addition to junior Kalen Gans qualifying for states, on Saturday, Feb. 26, setting a high standard for seasons to come.
Nick Ortiz, Kalen Gans, Ryan Oshima, and Joey Christopherson pose with their medals from the Central Coast Section Championships. – Courtesy of Butch Garcia 

The Palo Alto High School wrestling team (5-1) concluded the Central Coast Section Championships with four wrestlers placing in the top six of their respective weight divisions, in addition to junior Kalen Gans qualifying for states, on Saturday, Feb. 26, setting a high standard for seasons to come.

To have qualified for states, wrestlers had to place in the top three of their weight divisions; only Gans qualified to continue to the next step of the journey.

“Unfortunately, our section only qualifies three [per weight division] this year to the state meet,” Duran said. “That left Ryan Oshima one place shy of qualifying. Last year the section qualified four to the state meet.”

Players and coaches alike think that Gans’s qualification for state is well deserved for the amount of effort put into the season.

“Kalen has wrestled well all season,” Duran said “All the work paid off for Kalen this season. He put himself in a position to have a great amount of success.”

However, after losing to seniors Adam Busch from Castro Valley High School and Eric Davlla from Firebaugh High School, Gans’ season ended two and out at states on Friday, Mar. 4.

“One of our goals as a coaching staff is getting kids to the state meet and getting them into the position to become a state placer,” Duran said. “It is a long process and a lot of work — Kalen has put himself in this position. We have a few more wrestlers who will be there next year with Kalen.”

From the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League, the team advanced 11 wrestlers to CCS with four wrestlers placing in the championships, both of which are new records for the wrestling team, according to head coach David Duran.

“We were hoping for all 14 [wrestlers to qualify for CCS],” Duran said. “We did not get that, but this is the most we have ever qualified — we’ve had nine and 10 a few times, but never 11. The coaching staff was pleased with the results.”

The wrestling team has not had more than three placers in one season since 2004. The Vikings’ record-setting four placers included juniors Joey Christopherson (119 pounds), Nick Ortiz (125 pounds), Ryan Oshima (152 pounds) and Gans (160 pounds) placed sixth, fifth, fourth and third, respectively

“It feels great that we could perform so well as a team,” Oshima said. “Nick, Joey, Kalen and I put a lot of work during the spring and summer and I’m glad that we could finally see the hard work turn into high finishes at CCS.”

Despite the impressive performance this year, the results of CCS have fallen a bit short from the personal expectations of some placers.

“I have mixed emotions about placing fifth,” Ortiz said. “I was seeded sixth so I guess I beat my seed but I really wanted to place top three and qualify for states. I was disappointed it didn’t happen but I showed I can wrestle with everyone else in CCS.”

The players are quick to note Duran’s assistance through his coaching and mentoring skills that have helped them advance this far.

“He [Duran] has been around wrestling his whole life so you can tell he has a true passion for the sport, especially at the high school level,” Ortiz said. “As a person he’s funny and high-spirited, which shows in the wrestling room. It is easy for me and my teammates to wrestle for him given that we really respect him as both a coach and a person.”

With only one senior, Jose Tochez, graduating this year, the team expects to have a strong lineup for the next season.

“With 10 out of 11 of our CCS qualifiers returning, along with some strong freshman coming in, we should be an even stronger team next year,” Oshima said. “Possibly Paly’s best wrestling team ever.”

After the victories this season, the team is looking forwards to making it even further in the next.

“If anything this season has made us more hungry,” Oshima said. “We all knew that we had the potential to do as we well as we did, but now that we’ve had a taste we want more.”