Whether there will be an official league champion designation this season or not, coaches of the Live Oak and Sobrato wrestling teams considered their May 20 match the one to decide the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa East Division title.
The Bulldogs came away with a 42-32 win, putting the finishing touches on the teams’ mini season. Sobrato finished 3-0 and Live Oak was 2-1 after going 6-0 last season to win the championship.
“I’m thinking we’re the new champs in town; I think we took it,” Bulldogs coach Daniel Gamez said. “I’m proud of the guys for the progress they’ve made.”
Despite having three outstanding girl wrestlers on the team in Nyla Valencia, Abbeygael Cabuag and Shelby Hernstedt, the trio didn’t get to compete because none of the other teams in the league had girls on their roster. Wrestling was hit with a double whammy this season due to Covid as it was one of the last sports to get the go-ahead to play, but also only a handful of sports to not get a Central Coast Section tournament.
Despite the adversity, the Acorns and Bulldogs plowed on, appreciating the time—albeit, short—they got on the mat.
“We went out there and did what we could,” Live Oak coach Sean Kelly said. “Our wrestlers showed a lot of heart, and everybody in the wrestling community, from the coaches to the refs, were amazing and awesome so we could get in something.”
In the teams’ latest clash, Sobrato forfeited five matches and Live Oak two, giving the Acorns a plus-18 point differential right off the bat. That meant the Bulldogs had to win the majority of the seven contested matches, and they did just that, winning five of the seven all via pinfall.
Tayo Bernal (126 pounds), Kevin Khosala (132), Christian Cabuag (138), Michael Froess (145) and Clemente Holguin (152) all earned victories via pinfall, either in the first or second periods. Live Oak received victories from Zach Souza at 160 pounds and Elver Avendano at 170. Souza, who won all three of his dual meet matches this season, split up his time playing on the team’s 7-1 lacrosse team after a grueling five-game football season.
“He’s an all-around athlete and has had an insane year,” Kelly said.
Souza defeated Rory Wood 9-0 and Avendano beat Ben Hayes 12-4. Even in defeat, Gamez said he was proud of how his two wrestlers competed.
“The MVPs of the night for us were Ben and Rory,” he said. “Just going out there and battling with more experienced guys and not giving up the pin and giving them more points was key for us.”
Christian Cabuag looked impressive in his match with Ricky Howe, who had another strong season. But Cabuag is one of the Central Coast Section’s best and displayed a blend of power, speed, agility, quickness and superior technical skills. Having to sit out last season due to transfer rules, Cabuag focused his senior year on getting his grades up so he could wrestle at the four-year level.
“He’s got a lot of offers but still hasn’t picked yet,” Gamez said.
Led by Souza, Avendano, Howe, Chris Garcia and Andres Rocha Jayasinha, the Acorns put together another solid season on the mat. Kelly gave credit where it was due.
“I consider Sobrato the league champions,” he said. “They’re undefeated and technically they’re the champions for sure.”
Even though the wrestling schedule was drastically reduced this season, Gamez said it was far from a lost year since the three matches and time in the room will ignite what he hopes to be Sobrato’s best season yet for the 2021-22 campaign.
“The time is shorter now from now to next season,” he said. “That’s what we’re optimistic about. We’re going to stay with as many kids as we can over the summer, as they’ll train, lift weights, build technique. We lose only two seniors so we’re building toward the future.”