Sunday, December 14, 2014

Buchanan Grabs Mettler Title, EG Second

Perennial state wrestling power Buchanan easily won the team championship of the Curt Mettler Invitational Saturday, outdistancing the second place school, host Elk Grove, by more than twice the Herd’s total team points.

Buchanan scored 318.5 points on the strength of seven individual championships and four second-place finishes.

The Herd scored 144.5 points thanks to one first-place, sophomore Jacob Seto at 113 pounds, and three second-places: Kalani Tonge at 138 pounds, Jesse Arroyo at 126 pounds and Terrell Turner at 145 pounds.

Other Elk Grove grapplers who placed in the top six were freshman Lokahi Tonge, fifth at 113 pounds, and his twin brother Nahele, who was fifth at 120 pounds. Brandon Viale, a 160-pounder, was sixth while Zack Krock took fifth at 180. At 220 pounds Joe Guimont placed fourth and heavyweight Tyler Yates grabbed a fifth-place award.

Fresh off the Monterey Trail football field, E.J. Viacrusis grabbed a fifth-place trophy at the Mettler.
 ***Curt Mettler Invitational ***
Team Results                        Points
1. Buchanan                          318.5
2. Elk Grove                           144.5
3. Chico                                    141
4. Folsom                                95.5
5. Rodriguez                         92.5
6. James Logan                   81
7. Ponderosa                        78
8. De La Salle                        73
9. Escalon                               72.5
10. Oak Ridge                      68

More than 30 schools participated in the annual tournament considered by most, especially Elk Grove wrestling coach Pat Coffing, as the season-opener.

Midway through the day-long event Coffing was pleased to see that most of his wrestlers were returning to the mats for the second round in the championship brackets.

“This is a real tough deal for us because we’ve been just going against each other,” Coffing said. “We don’t know what we’re good at or what we’re not good at until we see other people.”

“I can see we need to work a bit on defense, although our offense is a little better than what I thought we would be,” he added. “Our pinning combination is a little weak.”

Coffing prides himself with annually bringing in the area’s top wrestling programs to the tournament, named in honor of the former Elk Grove High School wrestling coach. He says it right away helps his grapplers face some top-quality competition.

“We actively pursue the top ten programs in the state,” he said. “Those are the guys you are going to see in Bakersfield, so those are the guys you should train to beat.”

Bakersfield is the site of the CIF State Wrestling championships each year.

Midway through the brackets Saturday Coffing predicted Buchanan would win the team championship of the Mettler.

“They are one of the top three teams in the state,” he said. “We are hoping to keep pace with them.”

Elk Grove touts a fairly young stable of wrestlers in 2014-2015. Seto, Kalani Tonge and 220-pounder Sai Ta’amu, who sat out the tournament with a hand injury, are returning state qualifiers.

Tonge, who is ranked in the top 25 in the state, liked the way he wrestled Saturday and believes he can move up through the ranks of California’s top 132 pounders.

“I think with all the guys that are in our room, I can move up,” Tonge said. “I need to work a little bit more on top. Neutral I think I’ve been doing alright. Coach has been working with me on my shots.”

Though he wrestled Saturday at 138 pounds Tonge will probably drop down to 132 pounds later in the year. He was sixth at 126 pounds at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters last season.

This year a good crop of freshmen came up from Kerr Middle School’s renowned wrestling program to help bolster this year’s team at Elk Grove.

“Spencer Francisconi, who will likely wrestle down at 108, will have a shot,” Coffing said.  “He’ll have to battle with Ian Tank. The Tonge twins are right in the mix with (Eric) Spence and Arroyo. As this guys shift around, we’ll see where they all land. You just never know.”

Unlike several high schools that struggle to place a full starting 14 on the mat each match, Elk Grove once again has plenty of guys who can fill a starting place.

“The (wrestling) room is actually a little crowded,” Coffing said. “We’ve been really pushing at being good at life and that will make us good at wrestling. We’ve had zero detentions this year. We’re working on our deportments and that’s paying dividends in the room since we’re in the business of building young men.”

Coffing uses the Mettler every year not just to provide his guys an early-season test, but a good start-of-the-season for many of the other programs who annually wrestle in Elk Grove in early December.

“I actively recruit the coaches who have the solid programs,” he explained. “I don’t recruit the teams or the kids, I recruit the coaches. They generally show up with the good understanding that their kids are going to do the right thing because they are good quality guys. That’ what we’re looking for.”

This weekend the Herd will once again be facing top competition. They will travel to Buchanan High School in Clovis for the Zinkin Classic.

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