By Sandy Grossman & Jordan Xiao
The mats are being rolled out, the roster is being set, and the training is beginning. Wrestling season has officially begun its preliminary preparations, and the Tigers are looking to take full advantage of this, gearing up for another year of dual meets and tournaments. The team has been practicing every weekday since early November to gear up for their first tournament of the season, taking place after Thanksgiving break.
“We have a lot of fresh people, new bodies and new faces this year. There’s a lot of good talent out there and the kids are learning really fast,” head coach Al Shuton said. “I know we’re going to have some really solid wrestlers this year.”
In an important improvement from previous seasons, the squad is set to have wrestlers for all 14 weight classes, which greatly increases the team’s viability in the Rio Hondo League. In order to maintain a full roster in future seasons, the team plans to establish a wrestling program at the middle school so it can recruit experienced players as soon as they become freshmen. However, the Tigers’ overall success in the upcoming season depends on getting less-experienced members in the upper weight classes to compete at the high level of rivals San Marino and La Canada.
“What’s really gonna matter [this season] is if we can get some of the upper-weight guys up to speed. If we do that before league starts, I’ll be very confident about our prospects,” Shuton said.
In previous seasons, the Tigers were not able to field a full team and suffered frequent forfeits in the upper weight classes. But, with wrestlers in all 14 weight classes, the team thinks that, while it won’t be easy, it is in contention to be league champions. But Coach Shuton thinks the team has other reasons to be optimistic, specifically the quality of the coaching staff.
“We’ve always had good coaches, but by this year I think we’ve really become a well-oiled machine in our practices,” Shuton said.
With four returning seniors in the lower-to-middle-weight classes, including Angel Amaral, Nour Elsayed, Julian Lopez, and Harry Yun, Shuton is confident about sending a few Tigers to CIF and the prestigious Masters’ tournament.
The team will spend most of December practicing and attending tournaments, in preparation for their first league match against San Marino on Jan 6, 2015.