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Ready to rumble: Hillmen hope to be Masters on the mat

Placer prepping for upcoming wrestling season
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Mason Lenover was the only Hillman to go to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament last season. 
The Placer High senior wrestler is hoping for a repeat visit with a couple of teammates joining him this time around.
“I think a few of us have a really good chance to go to the State Meet,” said Lenover, a second-year varsity wrestler who plans to compete in the 160-pound weight class. 
Lenover’s quest for a bid to the State Meet came up short last February, as he dealt with a torn meniscus at the Masters. 
Lenover, who weighed 180 pounds at the start of last season and wrestled at the 170-pound division, spent a month rehabbing this summer after having surgery and was determined to get back on to the mat. 
“I pretty much knew I was going to wrestle no matter what,” he said. 
Lenover and his teammates kick off their season at the prestigious two-day Chuckchansi meet in Madera on Dec. 7 and 8. 
Placer’s roster features 31 wrestlers this year, 14 of which will compete at the varsity level. 
The varsity squad could change week to week, and the initial lineup will be determined at the upcoming Placer Challenges where the athletes go head-to-head with the winner gaining the varsity spot. 
“I don’t decide varsity and JV,” coach Don Packheiser said. “They do.” 
The Hillmen, who went 3-2 last year in Pioneer Valley League meets and lost to champion Bear River (5-0) by one point, expect to contend for the title this year. 
Top competitors figure to include Will Thornton, Josh Mason, Michael Valdez, Justin Mason, Gama Gomez, Ryan Talley and Brendan Packheiser, who is currently out due to injury. 
The team also features three girls in Roxanne Flores, Camille Royce and Tarin Virgil. 
“We got a lot of fresh faces this year,” said Valdez, who is moving up to the 145-pound weight class. “But it’s looking good. We’ve got a lot of seniors in our lineup. … I think we’re going to be good this year. If we can focus, we’ll have a great year.”
Valdez, who put on muscle in the off-season while weighting lifting for football, wrestled at 126 pounds last year. He came one win away from reaching Masters.
Stealing a line out of football coach Joey Montoya’s repertoire, Valdez said he wants to take things one day at a time and continue to improve at each practice. But he offered some insight into his goals for the season. 
“I want to be the league champion this year,” he said. I’ve taken second place the last two years. It really frustrates me. I really want that medal this year.
“That and I want the best for our team. I want a league championship.”
PVL duals begin Jan. 15 when the Hillmen visit Center. PVL, Division and Masters championships take place throughout the month of February. The State Meet is scheduled for March 1-2 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. 
 “I think we’re going to have a bunch of people going to Masters this year,” coach Packheiser said. “At Masters anything can happen. There’s a lot of good wrestlers on this team. We had one guy at Masters last year. I’m thinking there’s going to be a lot more this year.” 
 
Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel