Poway's Strength Is in Numbers : Titans' 10 State Qualifiers Puts Them Among Favorites

No one has to tell Poway Coach Wayne Branstetter that numbers aren't enough to win the state wrestling tournament, which begins today at Independence High School in San Jose.

Poway will have 10 representatives in the meet. No other school has more than six.

"The numbers certainly help," he said, "and they can definitely be an advantage. On the other hand, they won't mean a thing if our guys don't do well.

"I think we have quality in our numbers. I expect several of our people to do very well. But you never know what's going to happen at the state tournament. We sent eight guys (to state) in 1982 and finished 11th. One year Merced won it with two wrestlers. But both of them won individual titles."

He also suggested that Poway's strength in numbers could be misleading.

"We have good wrestlers and we compete in a good (San Diego) section. But the biggest and strongest sections are the Central and Southern. I'm not sure we could have qualified 10 guys if we'd wrestled in one of those sections."

Still, five of Branstetter's wrestlers--John Sargent (135), Mark Fredrick (142), Trace Smith (149), Jesse John (157) and Harold Jones (195)--qualified for state last year. Jones finished third, Fredrick fifth.

"Those five guys have to carry us," Branstetter said. "They've been there before and know what to expect."

There will be 25 wrestlers competing in each of the 13 weight divisions.

Valhalla, the defending state champion, qualified six wrestlers for state. Although the Norsemen rate as a longshot to repeat, they have San Diego's best bet for an individual championship in Mark Gerardi (149-pound division). Gerardi, a junior, won the state title at 141 last year.

El Camino's John Grubbs (101) also has a good shot at an individual title. He's the two-time defending San Diego Section Masters champion and is unbeaten this year at 33-0.

Monte Vista will send two individual champions--Juan White (109) and Kevin Eagleton (116)--and five wrestlers overall. Granite Hills has four representives, including Tim Briggs (142), the most valuable wrestler at last Saturday's Masters tournament. Orange Glen has three and Mt Miguel two. Nine schools each qualified one wrestler.

Preliminary rounds at the state tournament will continue throughout today. The tournament resumes Saturday with the finals scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

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