After finishing in fourth place in the ultra competitive Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division—the best wrestling league in the Central Coast Section—last year, San Benito High expects a rise up the standings this season. It won’t be easy, of course, but Haybalers coach Steven Salcedo feels the program is ready to once again finish as one of the top two teams in the league.
“Our whole lineup should be really good,” Salcedo said. “We have quite a bit of depth, and I thought we had a great off-season. If we have anywhere below a top three finish (in league), it would be a disappointment.”
San Benito has plenty of standout returners along with an infusion of talented newcomers. The top returners include Bryce Mattson, Michael Guzman, Matt Ramon, Vincent Jacinto and Noah Zaragoza. Mattson is coming off a terrific 2016-2017 season, finishing as the runner-up in the 160 pound finals of the Central Coast Section Championships.
Guzman took fifth in the 138 pound division, Ramon finished sixth in the 152 pound class and Jacinto placed second in his weight class in the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division Championships. As is the case before the season starts, Salcedo said most of the wrestlers need to work on their conditioning.
“If we can continue to get our guys stronger and work on their endurance, they’ll be that much harder to beat,” Salcedo said. “You look at a guy like Bryce, and he’s smart and really understands (the nuances) of the sport. Michael probably got the most mat time (in the off-season). He went to a lot of different freestyle tournaments, and we’re looking for a big year from him.
“And if Vince plays his cards right, he could have a big season as well. He’s got the technical skills, and now we’re getting his body and mind ready to handle the grind of the season. And Matt is one of my favorite athletes to work with. When he’s not working out for football, he’s working on stuff for wrestling.”
Salcedo said that if everyone grinds and stays injury-free, he’s hopeful the Balers could be sending a handful of wrestlers to the CIF State Championships in March. For that to happen, the Balers must improve technically and physically as the season goes along, In Gilroy High-transfer Joe Delgado, San Benito has someone who is no stranger to the state stage.
Delgado is a two-time state qualifier, and brings tremendous mat savvy and skills to the team.
“Joe is very quick and has a lot of experience,” Salcedo said. “He’s best on his feet and is really good with takedowns.”
Zaragoza is coming off a strong freshman year in which he finished third in the league championships. San Benito will receive an influx of talent now that football season is over, as Miguel Sanchez, Eric Fernandez, Ricardo Gallardo and Albert Rodriguez should all make an impact in the heavier weight classes (170 to 195 pound divisions).
Salcedo said he’ll look to continue to grow the girls team, which is scheduled to compete in four tournaments this season—up one from a year ago. The top returners include Maribel Saucedo and Jenna Hartman. Saucedo finished fifth in the CCS Championships last season, while Hartman—a sophomore—has made an impression with her skill development and commitment.
“Our girls program is growing,” Salcedo said. “We have about 12 girls on the team so far, and all 12 seem to be very committed and looking forward to building something great.”