If Arthur Parra ends up finishing in the top three in the upcoming Central Coast Section Championships—which would earn him a spot in the CIF State Tournament—he’ll point to the Gilroy Mid-Cals in late January as the turning point to his season.
The San Benito High sophomore wasn’t having the year he envisioned when he transferred in from Central Catholic of Modesto last summer. However, his strong performance at the Mid-Cals—where he went 6-1—gave him an extra dose of self-belief.
“I’ve never placed that high before in a big tournament like that, so that helped me mentally to be more confident,” he said. “I surprised myself at Mid-Cals and now I’m more confident knowing I can compete with the highest level guys.”
Parra, who is currently ranked third in the CCS at 120 pounds, displayed poise and strong mental and physical toughness in the Mid-Cals. Four of his wins came by four points or less, and his only loss was by two points, 6-4, to the 17th-ranked wrestler in the state, Bobby Cuevas of De La Salle.
Parra said his conditioning and mental outlook were the keys to winning the majority of his close matches.
“My stamina is good and it’s mostly a mental thing where I tell myself I can do it,” he said. “Even if I’m tired, I try to make it look like I’m not tired so it gets in their head a little bit.”
One of Parra’s wins in the Mid-Cals came against Gilroy High’s Daniel Glenn, who entered the tournament ranked above Parra.
“That was probably my favorite match because there is a lot of tension between the two schools,” Parra said.
Parra’s third-place finish at the Mid-Cals and the team winning the Overfelt Tournament on Jan. 30 have been some of the top highlights this season. Ethan Salcedo and Ayden Mattson powered the Haybalers to victory at Overfelt, as they both won titles in their respective weight classes.
“Winning Overfelt meant a lot because in a year full of uncertainty, I keep telling the guys you never know when it can be your last tournament,” Balers coach Steven Salcedo said. “It was the first time we’ve won since I’ve been here, so that was pretty cool. And I know the seniors have been pretty hungry to win a tournament so it was nice to see them compete like that.”
Mattson won the 184-pound division despite being unseeded. A reserve at the start of the season, Mattson won challenge matches to crack the starting lineup about six weeks into the season. Salcedo has been impressed with Mattson’s development and how he has overcome bouts of adversity and thrive.
After going 3-1 in the season-opening Los Banos Tournament, Mattson never had a winning record in the next two tournaments before finishing as the runner-up in the Watsonville Apple Cider Tournament. He then went 0-2 in Mid-Cals before rebounding in a huge way at Overfelt.
“I was happy to see him bounce back and take first place,” Salcedo said. “He’s got a really nice single-leg sweep and was able to hit it multiple times (at Overfelt). On the bottom (position), he has a sit-out that he pretty much hits on everybody which is a great escape.
“On top, he has an armbar move he puts in and turns people over. It’s really basic stuff, but he’s mastered it and the great thing about it is it’s the stuff we coach in the wrestling room. We call them series and he’s learned these series and is really good at them. They’re not complex by any means, but when he gets them in, he’s able to capitalize (and score points).”
Mattson knocked off the top seed in the tournament in the semifinals and went 4-0, all via pinfall.
“He was surprised he won that (semifinal) match, but it wasn’t surprising to us coaches because we know how hard he’s been working,” Salcedo said.
Ethan Salcedo has been competing at 120 pounds for most of the season, but is ranked No. 2 in the CCS at 113 pounds. The senior went 3-0 at Overfelt and a month ago went 5-0 in the Watsonville Apple Cider Duals. Parra started the season at 126 pounds but has since settled in at 120. He noted there is a big difference in the two weight classes even though they’re only separated by six pounds.
“I like 120s because 126 was a little too heavy for me,” he said. “Going from 126 to 120 was a big difference.”
Parra scores most of his points from standing position. He utilizes a lot of ankle picks and takedowns. If his opponent gets up, he’ll take them down again and repeat the process if things are going well.
Wrestlers and coaches tend to be a dedicated bunch as they are often traveling for tournaments at least two weekends of each month. For the Overfelt Tournament, Salcedo did extra duty as he stayed to watch and help coach the San Benito junior varsity team to victory on a Friday night.
He didn’t get home to Hollister until around midnight and was out in the morning by 5:20am to get to Overfelt by 7am for the start of Saturday’s proceedings.
“It was a long weekend, but it was worth it,” Salcedo said. “The kids wrestled their butts off and it came down to two points from our finals matches.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.