Youth movement positions for lead role

Only two of Del Oro’s senior starters return to reigning SFL?wrestling champs
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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If you stroll through the list of Del Oro High wrestlers who have qualified for the state tournament you’ll notice the steady flow of names that have not only qualified once, but multiple times. It’s something the Golden Eagles have become accustomed to. So, when all of a sudden there is only one state qualifier returning to the reigning Sierra Foothill League champions, you might wonder if they’re going to lose a step. Don’t count on it. While Del Oro is light on experienced senior starters — two to be exact — it is heavy on experienced and talented underclassmen, which is why co-coaches Dave Sanchez and Clint Madden can hardly contain their enthusiasm when talking about the future. “This year we had such a good group of freshmen come and the sophomores were already good,” Sanchez said. “It just goes to show what we’re building for. We hope this year we do well but we have plans for the next following years. We hope to do some things we haven’t done before.” One of those things could be a Sac-Joaquin Section team title, which the Golden Eagles have been the runner-up nine times but have never won. Before that kind of a lofty goal can come to fruition Del Oro will have to nurture a group of underclassman that could lose confidence if faced with competition they’re not ready for. So far, though, the coaching staff has made confidence building a top priority. Del Oro stayed close to home to start the season as it replaced talent-laden tournaments for local ones. The varsity season started at the Gold Country Classic at Ponderosa High followed by the Curt Mettler Invitational at Elk Grove and Marty Magnus at Casa Roble. “They did well, they really responded well when we took them to the local varsity tournaments and most of the kids on our team placed,” Madden said. “January is really going to be a real grind for us. They’re going to need to learn to adjust to wrestling against top-caliber kids.” The first test will come Wednesday with the start of the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno with about 100 of the top teams on the West Coast. Some of the younger group, though, has already had a taste of bigger competitions on the lower levels and others have seen some early success on varsity. Dylan Kainrath (170) placed third in last year’s California Frosh/Soph State Championships as a freshman along with now-junior Brendan Montoya (138). Now juniors, Tanner Woods (215) and Patrick Neu (145) both placed sixth. Isaac Blackburn (106) made it to the second day as a freshman but didn’t place. Freshman Zach Ruybal (113) has already shown his prowess this season with a first-place finish at the Gold Country Classic. Austin Branum is the lone returning state qualifier. The senior finished fifth in the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championship last year at 145 pounds and is currently ranked third. “It’s a little different because when I was younger I was always looking up and now I’m the older one and I’m looking down like I was that age,” Branum said. “It’s kind of weird looking back because even though it’s not a big age difference it seems (like) a lot because they act different like I acted different. So you can just tell when people reach a certain age they just change. You can definitely tell, though, that a lot of the freshmen coming in are tough. They’re a lot tougher than a lot of our last freshmen.” Kevin Love (170) is the other returning senior but will miss the Sierra Nevada Classic because he hasn’t logged the required five practices. He was an all-league selection at offensive line for Del Oro’s football team that fell to Helix 35-24 on Dec. 17 in the CIF State Division II championship. “This year we have one returning state qualifier,” Sanchez said. “Last year, we had three. Hopefully we can come back next year with several returning state qualifiers.”