In Karim Yasin, Khader Yasin, Ethan Salcedo, Arthur Parra, Noah Nelson and Derek Sandoval, the San Benito High boys wrestling team has its highest number of section-ranked preseason wrestlers in several years.
Even so, Haybalers coach Steven Salcedo said it’ll be up to the athletes to perform and justify those rankings. San Benito kicks off the 2021-2022 season as host to the Fehlman/Baxter Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 11.
“After the first couple of weeks, we’ll have a more clear look and see where everyone’s at,” Salcedo said. “Either way, I think we’ll have a great year and I’m excited to see what these guys end up doing.”
San Benito has a roster of 66 boys and eight on the girls team, which has a new coach in Mikey Soto. The top wrestlers on the girls team include senior Kylee Shackelford, who is ranked sixth in the Central Coast Section at 131 pounds, and Meaghan Ricker at 139 pounds, freshman Isabella Gutierrez at 145 and Hailee Talavera.
Parra enters the season as the highest-ranked wrestler on the boys team, with the junior coming in No. 2 at 126 pounds. Salcedo, a 2002 San Benito High graduate, was teammates with Arthur’s dad on the San Benito wrestling team in 2000-2001.
Parra is a transfer from Central Catholic in Modesto as his family recently moved back to Hollister.
“It was a pleasant surprise to have him come in,” Salcedo said. “He didn’t get a season last year, but I know he’s another good kid who’s been wrestling pretty much all his life. We’re hoping he can make our kids a little better. He fits in well with the other lightweight guys like Ethan and Noah and can work with those guys.”
The Yasin cousins are both seniors and looking to end their prep careers with their best season ever. Karim is ranked No. 5 in the section and 38th in the state at 195 pounds, which is one of the section’s strongest weight classes. Khader comes in No. 2 at 220 and looks to improve upon his third-place league finish two years ago.
Salcedo said he’s looking forward to seeing how the Yasin’s improve as the season goes along, as they are coming off a grueling football season.
“They already know how to wrestle, but the main thing is getting into a different type of body shape,” Salcedo said. “Football and wrestling are both demanding, but It’s just a different type of physical fitness. They’ll get there. They’ve been wrestling together since they were 5 or 6 years old, so they have the experience. It’s just a matter of putting the finished product on the mat.”
Ethan Salcedo, the nephew of Steven, is one of the team’s top returners. The senior is ranked No. 5 in the section at 120 pounds and finished fourth at 106 in the CCS Tournament as a sophomore two years ago, the last time the tournament was contested.
Salcedo has unfinished business left after a disappointing Covid spring season. Due to a litany of circumstances, San Benito only got to compete in two dual meets. Salcedo lost both of his matches–albeit, to ranked competition–but it didn’t exactly leave a great taste in his mouth.
“I’m really excited to get back to a full wrestling season,” said Salcedo, who finished in fourth place at 106 pounds at CCS two years ago. “I’d like to get back to the semifinals match this year and win it, but I know a lot of other kids have that same goal as well.”
Another senior, Nelson, has earned the praise of the coach for his consistency and competitiveness in dual meets and tournaments. Nelson is ranked No. 9 at 132 pounds and went 2-2 in CCS two years ago. Sandoval is another athlete coming off of football season and looking to have another solid season on the mat.
He’s ranked No. 8 at 152 pounds and plans on improving upon his 1-2 finish in CCS two years ago. Other potential standouts include Keith Pelaiz Jr. and Vicente Maldonado. Both Steven and Ethan Salcedo said this year’s freshman class—including Shane Wilbur, Aaron Rodriguez II and Tony Arroyo-Vega—can be something special if they continue to work hard and develop.
“I expect in the next couple of years we’ll be talking about some of these guys at the top in CCS,” Steven said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.