COLLEGE NOTEBOOK : Moorpark Bids for Another State Wrestling Title
The best-kept secret in junior college athletics around these parts would have to be the success of the Moorpark College wrestling team.
Year in and year out, Coach John Keever’s team grapples with the frustration of performing in relative obscurity, overshadowed by the school’s perennially strong football team.
“It’s the nature of the sport,” said Keever, whose Raiders were ranked No. 2 in the state heading into the state finals, which began Friday at West Valley College in Saratoga. “Football and basketball always seems to get the majority of the attention.”
Understanding that, Keever’s team has quietly gone about its business of defending its state championship--the Raiders’ first in wrestling.
Last week, Moorpark was a runaway winner in the South-Central regional. All 10 Raider wrestlers placed among the top four in their weight divisions and qualified for the state finals.
Neal Mason, one of Moorpark’s six individual champions, was voted the meet’s most outstanding wrestler for his performance in winning the 158-pound class. Valo Barajas (118 pounds), Walter Muirhead (167), Todd Hoult (177), Phil Guerrero (190) and heavyweight Adam Flores were the Raiders’ other champions.
Keever, who had no wrestling background when he took over the Moorpark program 23 years ago, was selected coach of the year at the regional.
Coaching, he said, is “just being a good teacher.”
“We are fortunate to have scrappy kids who like to work and train,” Keever said. “Wrestling is the kind of sport that even if you are not gifted, but if you have a good work ethic, you are going to have success.”
Indeed, none of Moorpark’s six regional champions finished better than fifth in the state during their high school careers.
Flores, from Buena High, and Mason, from Westlake, both placed fifth. Barajas, from Channel Islands, was seventh. Guerrero, from San Fernando, and Muirhead and Hoult, both freshmen from Agoura, did not place in the state meet.
GAIN WITHOUT PAIN
Mike Sims of Cal State Northridge is playing baseball without pain for the first time in months.
Sims played most of last season with an aching left wrist, an injury that would have been only slightly less annoying had his position not been catcher.
Sims played through the pain, having been told by doctors that his injury was tendinitis. Later, he went to a specialist, who said he had a pinched nerve.
As it turns out, Sims had a broken bone in his hand. He finally had surgery to repair the bone last month.
“It was the same injury Jose Canseco had,” Sims said before a conditioning session this week. “It feels great.”
Despite the injury, Sims batted .308 last season, often bunting and slap-hitting to take pressure off his wrist.
Moorpark College is in search of an opponent for the Raiders’ football opener next season.
The Raiders were supposed to open against Pierce, but when the Western State Conference recently released its schedules for the next two seasons, Moorpark and Pierce already were paired.
Moorpark’s next choice was Valley, but the Monarchs are locked into an opening-game agreement with Antelope Valley for the next two seasons.
“I’d like to schedule a game with a team that is not a major power,” Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner said. “A lot of teams are wary of playing us because of the success we’ve had in the last few years.”
MEL’S MEAT GRINDER
The Master’s College does not play any patsies in its next four games. The Mustangs will play a pair of good NCAA Division II teams: at home Friday against Cal State Bakersfield, ranked No. 2 in the nation by Basketball Digest; and on the road Dec. 21 against Cal State Dominguez Hills. After that, there will be no lazy days in the tropics when Master’s travels to the BYU-Hawaii tournament to play Hawaii-Loa (Dec. 27) and BYU-Hawaii (Dec. 28).
Coach Mel Hankinson said that he would not have played such a tough schedule if he did not have an abundance of seniors on his team, including five in the starting lineup. “That’s a meat grinder we really had planned on putting these seniors through,” Hankinson said, “and when we come out on the other side, we hope we’re not sausage. We hope we have some lean, mean kids.”
Jeff deLaveaga, a senior guard, moved into third place on Cal Lutheran’s all-time scoring list with 1,599 points after he contributed 31 in the Kingsmen’s 78-59 win over UC Santa Cruz last Saturday.
Steve deLaveaga, Jeff’s older brother, led the Kingsmen in scoring from 1986-89 and heads the school’s all-time list with 2,549 points. Steve plays professionally in Australia.
Jeff can move into second place on the list with 106 more points, ahead of Gary Bowman, who played for the Kingsmen from 1971-75.
Cassidy O’Sullivan, a senior tailback who rushed for 990 yards in 238 carries, was honored as most valuable player on the Cal Lutheran football team at an awards ceremony.
O’Sullivan moved into second place on Cal Lutheran’s single-season rushing list behind Hank Bauer, the school’s only 1,000-yard rusher, with 1,024 yards in 1975. O’Sullivan also landed in fifth place on Cal Lutheran’s career list with 1,304 yards.
RUNNING IN PLACE
Mike Williamson, runner-up in the 1988 state Division I cross-country championships for Thousand Oaks High, left the University of New Mexico after the 1990 cross-country season because of a coaching change. He plans to resume his collegiate career in the spring, however.
The problem is, he’s not sure for which school he will be running.
Williamson, a sophomore, is hopeful of getting a three-quarter scholarship offer to Oregon in the spring, but if that doesn’t pan out he will run track for Moorpark with hopes of transferring to Oregon in the fall.
Staff writers Mike Hiserman, John Ortega and Wendy Witherspoon contributed to this notebook.