The wrestling team entered the Almont League Wrestling Finals with one goal in mind—to prove that for what it lacked in experience, it made up for in passion and determination to make it to CIF. The finals were hosted at Montebello High School on Jan. 25, where six wrestlers placed within the top three of their weight divisions and are advancing to CIF.
The wrestlers started practicing a week before their first meet with their new coaches: Coach Kevin Encinas, Coach Gabriel Aguilar, and Coach Daveena Banda.
“Coach Encinas trains at my Jiu-Jitsu facility,” Aguilar said. “He told the main guy that there was a wrestling program at San Gabriel, and if no one came in to coach, the program would die. Coach Banda and I took the opportunity.”
The meet started off with boys and girls lighter weight classes, with an exception in the 182-pound weight class, where varsity wrestler senior Mel Pastenes wrestled. He and his partner were first, meaning all eyes were fixed on them. Having lost to him at a past dual meet, Pastenes was determined to redeem himself but was eventually overpowered once again.
“He was definitely more experienced than I am,” Pastenes said. “I tried to take two shots on him, and he knew exactly what moves to pull whenever I was on top of him. However, I noticed I could’ve kept turning him over whenever I had him in the double leg shot.”
The boys matches continued until championships. Varsity 126-pound wrestler sophomore Jacob Resendez secured his spot for second place after winning two out of his three matches. In his most memorable match, Resendez fought back-and-forth with his opponent from Mark Keppel until he finally re-dropped and pinned his opponent with a wrist-half.
“It feels good to make it to CIF because I put a lot of hard work and dedication into wrestling,” Resendez said. “I’m proud of how hard our team has worked even though we started late.”
In contrast, the female matches ended earlier since only three of five of them were able to compete. However, the following day, the wrestlers found out that six of their wrestlers, including two girls, qualified for CIF.
“The fact that they qualified here, in a district where there aren’t many females participating in wrestling, is a huge statement to everybody that the girls are here to compete and wrestle just as hard as the boys,” Banda said.