Laguna Beach High started a wrestling program for the first time in the school's history this season.
As he thought about his hopes for the team's inaugural campaign, Breakers coach Bobby Morales consistently kept his expectations tempered. His goal was to keep morale high, fostering an environment in which a band of first-time wrestlers would want to return at season's end.
Never did it cross his mind that just two months removed from launching the program, his wrestlers would be extending their season into the CIF Southern Section Coastal Division Individuals.
Miles Stripling (132 pounds), Sergio Castellanos (126) and Sunzar Kakar (120) placed in the top four of their weight classes in the Orange Coast League finals at Saddleback High on Tuesday. In doing so, they became the first wrestlers in Laguna Beach history to qualify for CIF.
The trio made it to the postseason meet at Westminster High on Feb. 16-17.
"They passed up their seed, most of them," Morales said proudly. "Our freshman [Kakar] wasn't expected to place at all."
Stripling and Castellanos are seniors. In Kakar, the Breakers have a returner who can relay a success story to those who join the Laguna Beach wrestling program in the years to come.
"That's one thing that we kind of lacked this year was true leadership from the peers," Morales added. "For next year, having a freshman come back as a CIF qualifier will definitely motivate the incoming freshmen. He'll find himself as a leader on the team next year."
Costa Mesa finished with the most CIF qualifiers among local teams with seven. Aaron Gonzalez was the lone local to earn an individual league title, honoring his top seeding in the 220-pound division.
Gonzalez went undefeated in league dual meets in his second season as a wrestler. After skipping his sophomore year, the junior said his teammates had high expectations for him.
"All the seniors were like, 'You're a big kid. You're a strong kid. You play football. People are looking at you like you're super good, like Superman or something,'" Gonzalez said. "You have to make sure that you wrestle your hardest so that you can show them the person that they want to see."
Estancia will be sending four on to CIF, led by senior Hector Camerena, who placed second at 113 pounds. Camerena said he cut weight after performing well at 120 in league.
"Our league isn't a really good league," Camerena said. "The only really good school here is Calvary Chapel. I know that the guys I beat, they're not the people I'm going to face in CIF. Doing well there [CIF] reflects that I'm better than the people that [I face in league]."
Orange Coast League finals
Top four qualify for CIF Individuals
106 – Bernal (GG) pins Ulmanzor (God), 4:00.
113 – Amuro (CC) pins Camerena (E), 4:00.
120 – Arroyo (CC) tech. fall Rojas (God), 16-1.
126 – Sparks (CC) tech. fall Sotelo (San), 17-1.
132 – Gurule (CC) tech. fall Flores (GG), 15-0.
138 – Toledo (God) dec. Mazza (GG), 6-5.
145 – LaLonde (CC) dec. Jimenez (GG), 8-2.
152 – Valdez (CC) dec. Munoz (Sad), 4-2.
160 – Mello (CC) dec. Melgoza (Sad), 7-2.
170 – Hurtado (God) dec. Farias (GG), 9-3.
182 – Valadez (San) maj. Miranda (God), 12-5.
195 – Villegas (God) pins Aguirre (Sad), 2:00.
220 – Gonzalez (CM) dec. Scully (GG), 4-1.
285 – Tran (GG) pins Lopez (God), 2:49.
106 – Flores (E) pins Stanley (CM), 3:39.
113 – Saldana (San) dec. Le (Sad), 4-0.
120 – Rojo (CM) dec. Kakar (LB), 4-0.
126 – Castellanos (LB) pins Contreras (God), 3:11.
132 – Mora (God) dec. Stripling (LB), 6-2.
138 – Gutierrez (CC) maj. Gallardo (Sad), 15-4.
145 – Mojica (CM) maj. Solono (God), 13-0.
152 – Jones (CM) pins M. Pineda (God), 2:00.
160 – Gonzalez (GG) pins H. Pineda (God), 0:31.
170 – Mendez (CM) dec. Santay (Sad), 6-5.
182 – Ownby (GG) pins Lagunas (CM), 1:33.
195 – Potts (E) pins Valenzuela (GG), 4:55.
220 – Nunez (Sad) dec. Aguilar (God), 3-0.
285 – Parsons (E) wins by forfeit.