Wrestling: Sport thriving again in middle schools

Rancho San Justo's Michael Parsons competed in the Eye of the Tiger Invitational at Spring Grove on March 11.

A year ago, Andy Parra was approached by some of the parents at Spring Grove School on the possibility of hosting a middle school wrestling tournament that included not only schools in Hollister, but outside of San Benito County as well. On March 12, that’s exactly what happened.
Schools that competed in the tournament included Spring Grove, Rancho San Justo Middle School, Maze Middle School, Washington Middle School of Salinas, Carmel Middle School, Pacific Grove Middle School, along with a couple of wrestlers from the Gilroy Hawks club team and Palma’s middle school squad.
“We felt this would be a great year to do it, so we went for it,” said Parra, the Spring Grove wrestling coach. “It was great how everyone came together to run the tournament. Our parents were amazing. They kept the tournament flowing and ran an amazing snackbar. I was thankful for Mrs. Bernosky (Jenny Bernosky, Spring Grove principal) letting us have the opportunity to host the tournament. I said, ‘OK, we better do a good job because I know anything attached with Spring Grove has to be top-notch.’ We wanted to promote wrestling.”
Mission accomplished. Rancho San Justo Middle School coach Dave Salcedo, who is also an assistant coach at San Benito High, said tournaments like this showcase wrestling in a positive light. It also exposes kids to the sport at an early age, preparing them for a potential standout career at the high school level.
Salcedo said Spring Grove ran an excellent tournament.
“The parents and coaching staffs did a really good job of organizing things,” he said. “Everything fell into place. It was the right amount of kids (participating), the facilities were great, and the competition was strong and raised the bar for everyone.”
Parra said there were around 150 wrestlers in the field, which included bracket-style type competition. Local winners included Rancho San Justo’s Jacob Herbst in the 102-pound weight class, Rancho’s Noah Zaragoza (108), Spring Grove’s Tristan Emma (154), Rancho’s Ceaser Vaca (165), Rancho’s (Jario Puga 175) and Maze’s Cesar Rojo (240).
Second-place finishers included Maze’s Gabriel Camacho (97), Rancho’s Jenna Hartman (114), Rancho’s Miguel Sanchez (120), Rancho’s Martin Calderon (127), Rancho’s Xavier Rogers (138), Rancho’s Rigo Morin (145), Rancho’s David Castillo (154), Rancho’s Austin Hatchet (195) and Maze’s Josh White (215).
“It was a great experience for our kids,” Salcedo said. “We had a lot of them wrestling (in competition) for the first time.”
The middle school wrestling season begins around the time the high school season ends. Salcedo schedules weekly challenge matches between his wrestlers to keep the competition high, spirits up and focus sharp.
“It’s a good energy when the guys challenge each other every week,” he said. “It keeps the kids on their toes.”
Parra and Salcedo said they would love nothing more than contributing to the future development of future champions at San Benito High. The most successful wrestling programs at the prep level have strong junior high school and club teams that act as feeder programs to the high school.
Slowly but surely, there’s renewed optimism that wrestling in Hollister has once again captured the fancy of a number of male athletes in the area. Parra said he’ll do his best to make sure there’s another tournament at Spring Grove next year.
“I’m hoping to make it an annual thing,” he said. “As long as we have support from the school and parents, then we’ll make it happen.”

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