The Live Oak High wrestling team has been in contention for a league championship the last couple of years, and coach Sean Kelly is confident the Acorns will be in the same position again this season.
The competition in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa East Division will be tough, as it includes past Central Coast Section powers Andrew Hill, Independence and Overfelt, along with another solid team in Pioneer. However, Kelly likes his roster and said if they put the work in and show the commitment, they’ll be in prime position to win a championship.
“I think we have a pretty good chance of winning league,” said Kelly, whose team is coming off a 54-12 league win over Gunderson on Jan. 12. “It all depends if they keep their head in the game and stick to what we’re working on in the wrestling room. If we stick to our guns and do what we did against Gunderson, we’ll be in good shape.”
Kelly is hopeful for a triumphant return of senior Ricky Howe, who is one of the team’s most experienced wrestlers and was scheduled to compete in the Jim Root Memorial Tournament at Prospect High on Jan. 14-15. Howe took seventh in BVALs and went 1-2 in the CCS Tournament at 120 pounds as a sophomore, the last time CCS was contested.
“It’s Ricky’s senior year and hopefully he can get back on the train and do something with it,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he’s continually looking for his seniors to step up and set the pace, including Kleber Diaz (145 pounds), Jonathan Terrazas (132) and Ryan Emerton (182). Competition is fierce in the lower weight classes within the team, especially the 126- and 132-pound divisions.
Terrazas has already lost a challenge match to sophomore Joshuah Valdivia and freshman D’Angelo Cardenas has been strong at 126.
“Terrazas is in a bit of a situation where it’s his senior year and he needs to step up if he wants a varsity spot,” Kelly said. “He needs to beat one of them.”
Kelly raved about Cardenas and said the freshman is talented and has a huge appetite to improve all of his skills.
“D’Angelo listens and takes instruction well,” Kelly said. “His quickness is what is amazing to me. The amount of skill and chaining of his moves of defense and offense is solid. He can get in a bind and be out of it in 10 seconds, maybe less. With his knowledge going forward, I wouldn’t doubt that he could make it to state, maybe in his sophomore year. He’s pretty freaking good.”
Kelly also said to watch out for freshman Robby Rael at 152 pounds, freshman Mateo Robledo at 170 and junior Justus Allard at 120. Kelly repeated on a couple of occasions that it’s up to the Live Oak wrestlers to be patient, stick with the process and grind to reach their potential.
“They’re catching on to what I’m teaching them,” he said. “We had a (guest) college coach come in and they’re learning new things, more defenses. More or less, it’s about repetition. The kids don’t see it—they just want to compete in a match. But it’s about the repetition at practice and doing the same things and building on those things that will move them forward. We’re wanting to teach them every type of move toward defense and offense, where they can chain moves to moves so they’ll never be in a spot where they’ll have a move blocked. We’re looking good for league and CCS. I believe we can send three to five guys to CCS, depending on how hard they work for it.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.