When Reza Abedi took over as wrestling coach at Dana Hills High in 1995, only eight boys came out for the sport.
When this season started, more than 80 came out.
“We want to build a tradition at Dana Hills,” Abedi said. “I guess it’s my coaching style that has the kids’ interest. That, and my background.”
In 1982, Abedi and three of his Iranian teammates defected while competing in an international military meet in Caracas, Venezuela.
“We were the first ones to do it. And it was tough to leave my country,” said Abedi, who was in the Iranian Air Force. “But there was no way I could stay. Khomeini and the political atmosphere . . . it was unbearable.”
Abedi spent a couple of years in France and Spain. In 1984, he came to the United States.
“I can never go back home,” Abedi said. “And I still have relatives there, but a lot of my family is living in Belgium.”
Ardeshir Asgari, one of the wrestlers who defected with Abedi, is the wrestling coach at Cal State Fullerton.
Abedi believes his past might endear him to his wrestlers.
“I’m very close to these kids,” he said. “I’m sometimes their father, mother, brother and friend. I believe I have their respect.”
Abedi coached Dana Hills to South Coast League titles in 1997 and ’98. This season, Dana Hills is ranked third in the county, its highest poll position ever.
“I remember my first year, a parent told me I might not do very well at this school,” Abedi said. “She seemed to think surfing, an affluent lifestyle and an unwillingness to work by these kids would take its toll. But the kids proved just the opposite. They’re hard workers and they believe in themselves. Oh, and they still surf.”
In the last two weeks, Dana Hills won the Covina Northview tournament and finished second behind No. 2-ranked Villa Park in the Mann tournament at Santa Ana College.
Six Dolphin wrestlers are ranked in the county: Ian McCall (fourth at 103 pounds), Anibal Rossell (fifth at 119), Sohail Abrahim (fourth at 140), John Frink (fifth 152), Adam Aldinger (fifth at 160) and Tevor Orr (third at heavyweight).
Abedi is also enthusiastic about Risto Marttinen, who won the 135-pound title at the Mann tournament.
“I really think he’s going to do something this year. He’s getting better with each match.”
ANTENORE WINS TITLE
Irvine had a good showing at the 54-team El Cajon tournament Tuesday and Wednesday, finishing seventh and crowning an individual champion.
Robert Antenore, ranked fourth in the county at 125 pounds, won his weight class, beating Jeff Tollar of Vista Rancho Buena Vista in the final, 6-1.
Antenore, a senior, has won back-to-back tournaments, taking the gold at 125 in the Mann tournament.
Irvine’s Joe Cobo, who normally wrestles at 145 pounds, was bumped up to 152 but still went 4-2 and took second in the tournament.
Other Irvine wrestlers to medal were Wyatt Howard (fifth at 160), Mark Greenwood (sixth at 145) and Chris Clark (sixth at 189).
University had two finalists: Galen Duckles won the heavyweight title and Francisco Gamboa was second at 189 pounds.
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