The ridiculous conclusion to Heath Sims’ absurdly successful 1988-89 wrestling season came little more than a minute into the state final at 138 pounds.
Sims, the defending champion at 132 pounds from Woodbridge High School, took the mat against Monte Vista’s Dustin Harless in Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific. After the obligatory handshake and several seconds of rolling on the mat, Sims put Harless’ back on the mat and squeezed down. He pinned him 1:05 into the match.
The ease and speed of it all so stunned the capacity crowd of 6,000 that it didn’t so much cheer as offer Sims a reverential ovation. Sims had made the second best 138-pounder in California--a state with more than 1,000 high schools competing in wrestling--look like a 50-pound sack of pet chow.
Sims nonchalantly walked away from the mat. When asked if he was surprised at how easy it had all been, Sims said, “I guess. But then, I wrestled really well.”
No kidding. Sims, a senior, won his four matches leading into the state final with a pin and a combined score of 42-8. He beat his semifinal opponent, San Jose’s Chung Le, 19-4.
So that was the end. Heath Sims, The Times’ wrestler of the year, had earned his place next to Orange County’s finest and the right to be mentioned in the same breath with other two-time state champions such as El Dorado’s Todd Tomaczic and Capistrano Valley’s Mike Phillips.
As impressive as his finale, Sims’ beginnings are equally laughable . . . now.
It was the Southern Section 2-A tournament two years ago, during one of the matches in which he had a comfortable lead, that Sims, a sophomore, pinned himself. While executing a move, he was so intent on placing his opponent’s shoulders on the mat that he failed to notice he had done that to himself.
“Heath’s a low-key kid, but after that he was really upset,” said Cliff Nelson, Woodbridge coach. “That really gave him the drive to go on. That’s when he decided to wrestle year-around.”
Sims had been a standout running back on Woodbridge freshman and sophomore football teams but quit to concentrate on wrestling.
“There’s no secret to the method,” said Dave Sims, Heath’s father and Woodbridge assistant coach. “He drilled, and he trained, he trained, and he drilled.”
Of course it doesn’t hurt if your father happens to have been an Illinois state wrestling champion himself, also at 138 pounds.
But Dave said he never pushed Heath into the sport. In fact, Heath didn’t pick it up until he had arrived at Woodbridge. Once he had made the decision to do it full time, he did just that.
He put in 40-hour weeks, many times working out with his high school team in the afternoon and on his own afterward. With this season over, Sims is still working out about eight hours a day.
“He just goes and then goes some more,” Nelson said. “He’s unbelievable.”
Just ask any one of 6,000 who saw him in in the state final.
ALL-COUNTY WRESTLING TEAM
NAME: ALBERT ANDRES WT: 98 YEAR: Junior SCHOOL: Sunny Hills Andres had a 38-10 record. The Freeway League champion, he was second at the Southern Section 2-A tournament, fifth at the Masters and qualified for the state tournament.
NAME: DAVID NIEDRINGHAUS WT: 105 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Edison Niedringhaus won the 4-A championship and placed second in the Masters to qualify for the state tournament. He won his first match at the state before being eliminated.
NAME: RAVI RAMSAMOOJ WT: 112 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Canyon Ramsamooj missed six weeks after dislocating his collarbone early in the season, then became Century League champion (he won at 105 in ’88), finished second in 4-A, fourth in the state.
NAME: ROB LANGENWALTER WT: 119 YEAR: Junior SCHOOL: Esperanza Langenwalter has won 105 varsity matches. He won the 4-A championship this season after winning the title at 112 in ’88. Finished third at the Masters and finished season with a 45-4 record.
NAME: TONY OKADA WT: 126 YEAR: Sophomore SCHOOL: Savanna Okada won the 3-A championship and placed first at the Masters. Advanced to the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Javier Gonzales of Overfelt. Okada finished fifth.
NAME: MIKE VERBECK WT: 132 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Savanna Verbeck qualified for the state tournament by placing second in the Masters. He advanced as far as the state semifinals before losing to Arroyo’s Efrin Gonzales and wrestled back to take fifth in the state.
NAME: HEATH SIMS WT: 138 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Woodbridge What didn’t he do? Sims won his second state title in a row (last season he won at 132). He went through the state tournament with two pins and outpointing opponents, 42-8, in three other matches.
NAME: KENNY RICHARDS WT: 145 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Edison Like his teammate, Niedringhaus, Richards won a 4-A championship and qualified for the state tournament by placing sixth at the Masters. He won his first match before being eliminated.
NAME: CHRIS MOLLKOY WT: 154 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Katella After losing to Newbury Park’s Chris Kilbane in the 4-A final, Mollkoy came back to beat Kilbane for the Masters championship. A two-time league champion, Mollkoy went on to win the state championship.
NAME: JOSE CASTILLO WT: 165 YEAR: Junior SCHOOL: Valencia In only his second season of competitive wrestling, Castillo won the Orange League championship. He was 33-9-1 and placed third at the Masters, which placed him in the state tournament.
NAME: JOE PASTORELLO WT: 175 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Katella At 46-0, he was the first Katella wrestler to go undefeated. He won the state championship with a grueling 1-0 victory over Westlake’s Billy Hunter. Pastorello also beat Hunter in the 4-A and Masters finals.
NAME: ZACH COOPER WT: 191 YEAR: Senior SCHOOL: Canyon Cooper (45-0) was the first undefeated Canyon wrestler. He won 4-A and Masters titles. Then in the state final, trailing Clovis’s Renee Carlos, 6-5, Cooper executed a reversal with four seconds remaining to win.
NAME: PAUL JARAMILLO WT: Hwt. YEAR: Junior SCHOOL: Valencia Jaramillo went 29-6 and finished second in the 3-A tournament. He was one Masters match away from qualifying for the state tournament, but he lost to Indio’s Art Sanchez in the consolation semifinals.
CHRIS DeBELLE 98 Junior Laguna Hills SEAN GALLAGHER 105 Senior Capistrano Valley TED SULLIVAN 112 Junior Santa Ana Valley VIC COREY 119 Senior Mater Dei JASON MITCHELL 126 Sophomore Canyon JADE NEWMAN 132 Senior Westminster BRENT HOLMES 138 Senior Buena Park NICK SHERMAN 145 Senior San Clemente RYAN OWINGS 154 Senior Laguna Hills JON WILLIAMS 165 Senior Esperanza JOHN ORTEN 175 Senior El Dorado BRIAN TOMACZIC 191 Senior El Dorado JUAN TIRADO Hwt. Senior Saddleback