When the Hoover High wrestling team sets foot to mat at this weekend’s CIF Southern Section Eastern Division Individual Wrestling Championships at Perris Citrus Hill High, it will have almost been three weeks since the Tornadoes have officially competed.
Perhaps it could be argued that the fledgling three-year program enjoyed its greatest day at the Rio Hondo League individual wrestling finals at Monrovia High on Feb. 1.
There, the Tornadoes captured two league titles and advanced all 10 wresters to the Eastern Division championships, although only nine will make the trip.
A total of 20 days will have passed before Hoover opens the two-day tournament on Friday, which could very well be a point of concern.
Yet, Hoover first-year Coach Dave Beard doesn’t seem the least bit worried.
“We’re all pretty excited,” Beard said. “We’ve been staying focused and have had some great workouts of late. Our goal is to advance as many guys as possible.”
Not only are individual weight-class championships up for grabs, but roughly 25 wrestlers per each of the 14 divisions will attempt to earn five qualifying spots to the following week’s CIF-SS Masters Meet at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, with the tournament beginning Feb. 28 and ending March 1.
Hoover has never advanced a wrestler to the Masters Meet and tried to counter that lack of experience with proven success as the team practiced with, against and at Rio Hondo League champion San Marino these last two weeks.
“We went to San Marino and the atmosphere is really different down there,” Beard said. “We’re competing with the area’s best program and are going against some pretty good guys. They’ve been great teachers and partners.”
There’s no mistaking that if Hoover does advance a wrestler past Saturday, it will more than likely be either senior Arthur Ghukasyan or Sebastian Ghouliance.
Ghukasyan, the Rio Hondo League 160-pound champion, sports a 14-0 record along with a Jim Bauer Palmdale Tournament championship.
“We’ve been practicing for this tournament, for CIF, for months,” said Ghukasyan, who has visions of heading to both the Masters and state tournaments. “After the league championships, we’ve been going to other wrestling clubs and doing whatever to prepare for CIF. I’m hoping it will be great.”
Ghouliance is his team’s second Rio Hondo League champion and third-ever, having won the 170-pound title.
This season, Ghouliance has proven difficult to beat with a 16-2 record that includes an El Monte Tournament championship.
“My goal this year is to make it to state,” Ghouliance said. “But, my eye isn’t off the prize. I’m not looking past CIF and I’m ready to go to CIF and win a spot to Masters.”
Hoover was also supposed to bring three league runner-ups to the tournament but had a late scratch in junior 152-pounder Davit Nersiyan, who, according to Beard, withdrew for personal reasons.
“It’s too bad for Davit,” Beard said. “He could have honestly had a chance to grab a fifth spot.”
Nonetheless, Hoover 195-pounder Kenny Garcia (19-9) and 113-pounder David Balakeseryan (10-4) will try to rebound from league title-match defeats and earn advancement to Masters.
Hoover’s final five competitors also pining for a ticket to Ontario consist of 132-pound sophomore Narek Zamanyan (17-10), 138-pound sophomore Jessie Martinez (22-7), 145-pound sophomore Geraldy Martinez (20-9), 182-pound senior Mike Sosa (8-4) and sophomore heavyweight Sean Waasdorp (11-9).