A solid fourth-place showing in last year’s Central Coast Section Wrestling Championships left Art Parra one position short of reaching the CIF State tournament.
That gave Parra plenty of motivation entering the off-season. The Hollister High junior is seeing the fruits of his labor pay off this season as he’s won two tournaments—the Morningstar Invitational and Pat Lovell Classic—in which he came up short last season.
Parra’s renewed focus on his diet and training has earned him a No. 29 state ranking in the 120 pound weight class. Incidentally, it’s the same division he was competing in last season. Generally, a high school wrestler will go up a weight class or two with each succeeding year.
However, Parra has given more detailed attention to his eating regimen which has allowed him to maintain a walking weight of 124 pounds.
“I’ve been staying consistent on my diet so my weight cut is not too hard,” he said. “I’ve been training way harder than I did last year and I feel pretty healthy at the same time. I’m not eating too much sugary foods and I try not to log over 1,500 calories a day.”
A 1,500-calorie diet is hard enough but especially during the holidays, where family gatherings tend to involve loads of food. But Parra has made sure to stay on track by keeping in view his goal of making State this season.
“It’s hard because there are a lot of temptations [food-wise] and a lot of people can’t do it so they give in,” he said. “But I have to stay disciplined and have to do it on my own. It’s self-determination because I want to be at the top level.”
Haybalers coach Steven Salcedo has been impressed with Parra not only because of the wrestler’s improved focus with diet and training, but his willingness to lead in a way that he didn’t do last year as a sophomore.
A lot of that has to do with Parra being a year older and being at the school longer as he transferred into Hollister the summer before his sophomore year.
“We were still getting to know Art last year and this year we’re a little more comfortable with him and he’s a little more comfortable with us as a coaching staff,” Salcedo said. “It takes time to build that chemistry and I talked to him earlier in the year about being a team leader and giving more ideas from a players’ point of view of something going on in practice or adding something in.
“So, he’s definitely become more vocal as far as taking on that leadership role on the team. As a coach, I get my perspective on what I see, but we need to take into consideration what the players are seeing and what they feel. So he’s taken into that role this year which has been nice.”
After a double bye, Parra went 5-0 to win the Pat Lovell Classic at Aptos High on Dec. 28. He cruised to the final, winning two matches via pinfall, one by technical fall and the other by a commanding 7-0 decision.
He only met resistance in the title match where he scored a 5-2 decision victory over Elk Grove’s Nick Bulanin. Parra scored four points on a pair of takedowns in the first and second periods, and his fifth point came on an escape in the final period.
“Winning that tournament was important because last year I got to the finals but lost,” Parra siad. “So this year I really wanted to win it. The kid I faced in the finals was pretty good, but I was pretty dominating the whole time and controlling the match.”
Parra said the biggest improvement in his mat game is from the bottom position.
“On bottom, I used to never be confident or good,” he said. “But in the off-season I knew that was my weakness so I’ve been training a lot. I’ve been choosing bottom way more in matches and getting out every time [to score points]. I’ve been training way harder because I don’t want what happened last year to happen again this year. Going to State has always been a dream of mine so being one place off really motivated me.”
Another top retuner on the team includes 132-pounder Aaron Rodriguez, a sophomore who had a solid freshman season.
“We’re hoping Aaron is going to be one of our co-leaders as far as work ethic and the type of wrestler he is,” Salcedo said.
Salcedo is also excited for the Hollister girls team, which is coached by Mikey Soto. Hollister is carrying around 15 girls on the team this season, up from the three to four that competed last year.
“We did recruit a bit harder this year, whether it was having lunch meetings and having our returners ask their friends from other sports to come out,” Salcedo said. “We went through multiple different avenues to get a lot more girls into the program.”
Hollister will host the Judy Rider Memorial on Jan. 28, which is one of the program’s biggest fundraisers. The Balers have been led by Lilian Thrasher, Isabella Perez, Hailee Talavera, Zoe Talavera and Megan Collum.
Hollister has been one of the busiest teams in the CCS. Its most recent tournament was at Alisal High, where it took fourth place. Perez and Hailee Talavera led the way by winning their respective weight classes.