Wrestling

The season that almost didn’t happen a good one for Casa Grande wrestlers

The season that almost didn’t happen a good one for Casa Grande wrestlers

Much like the season that was almost lost, the accomplishments of the Casa Grande High School wrestling team were pretty much overlooked in the flurry of activity that marked high school sports single season.

Although there were no post-season tournaments and no way for wrestlers to reach the ultimate goal of a California Interscholastic Federation state tournament, the Gauchos managed to compete in 11 dual meets, winning eight of them. Their only losses were to Napa by a single point and to wrestling powers Redwood and Ukiah. They finished the season with a 54-15 win over a very good Petaluma team.

The wins and successes were all off the record since the North Coast Section did not officially count any of this season’s results. Of course, they did count where they really mattered – on the mat.

To be on the mat was the biggest win of all. “I don’t think anybody thought we would be able to wrestle,” said Casa coach Isaac Raya. “It meant the world to us just to be back in the wrestling room together.”

The strength of the team was in a handful of seniors, but its depth was in a cadre of freshmen pushing up from the strong Kenilworth Junior High school program. There were 15 freshman on the team. Four of them cracked the varsity lineup.

Rivas, a teacher and coach at Kenilworth, has been with some of the freshmen for three seasons, coaching them at the junior high before both they and their coach moved up to the high school.

With no CIF post-season competition two Casa Grande wrestlers, Ryan Naugle and Zackery Babel, competed in the California Folkstyle All-Comers Tournament and both finished second in what amounted to a state tournament event. I believe they would have placed in the official state tournament,” said Raya. “They both belonged there.”

Naugle, a Vine Valley Athletic League champion in 2019, was the Casa Grande leader all season. “He was the team point leader with twice as many points as any other wrestler,” noted Raya. “We could always count on him for a pin. He was awesome.

“Zachery is a great athlete. He has a judo background and was able to combine the two discipline. He just tot better all season.”

Another team leader for Casa Grande was 220 pounder Conner Gloster, a team captain. “He had a great attitude,” said Raya. “He was a super hard worker who represented the Casa Grande wrestling team well. I have no doubt that he would have placed at NCS if he had the chance.”

Other key Gauchos were Sam Virkus, Kyle Garrity, Ethan Falkenberg and Jacob Isola. Falkenberg was a VVAL champion, while Garity finshed third, Virkus and Isola both finished second in the VVAL tournament last year.

Raya said it was more than the first line players responsible for the Casa Grande success.

“We had a lot of depth. We had at least one or two backups in every weight class,” he said.

With so many young wrestlers, the future for the Gauchos looks bright, but their success will be built on the success of a season that almost didn’t happen.

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