A changing of the guard has taken place at Fountain Valley High.
As host of the prestigious Five Counties wrestling tournament, the Barons feel obligated to put on a show when many of the sports’ elites turn up on campus.
Fountain Valley supplied two of the three locals that placed in the tournament, neither of which has yet to contribute to the Barons’ ongoing streak of six consecutive Sunset League titles.
Freshmen Max Wilner and Dylan Zotea came away with third-place medals on Saturday, leading Fountain Valley to an area-best 100 points in the two-day event.
Wilner and Zotea will be heard from in short order. Fountain Valley lines up against Edison, a match expected to decide the Sunset League this year, on Jan. 24.
The two of them exhibit qualities commonly found in top athletes – dissatisfaction with anything less than a championship and a desire to be contributors right away.
“Third place is great in some ways, but that’s not what I came for,” Wilner said. “Especially being at my school, a tournament at my school just puts a chip on my shoulder that I have to perform.”
Wilner defeated Lemoore’s Joe Romero 7-3 in the 145-pound third-place match. He went 5-1 in the tournament after making it to the semifinals in the main draw.
Zotea also won by decision over Chula Vista Eastlake’s Benjamin Martinez 8-3 at 126 pounds. He went 6-1, winning four matches in the consolation bracket.
“I feel like I’m pretty much a leader on the team,” Zotea said. “Keeping up the tradition of winning league, I think that’s a given. I think we’re going to do it pretty easily this year.
“As a freshman, that title [of class year] means nothing to me. I’m just a wrestler. I have the same goals as everyone else. It doesn’t make me less of a wrestler. I definitely see myself easily competing with seniors.”
Senior Christian Hernandez, a 152-pounder, also advanced to the second day of the tournament for Fountain Valley. He just missed medaling himself, dropping his match versus Rialto Carter’s Miguel Gallardo 5-4 in the consolation quarterfinals.
Marina’s Mike McCoy (113) advanced to the championship quarterfinals, where he ran into top-seeded Tristan Lujan of Selma. McCoy was pinned in the third period, and the energy expended in that match likely contributed to his exit in his first consolation round.
McCoy said that he and his brother, John, are seeing the season in more of an individualistic sense, as lower numbers in the Marina wrestling program have dampened the team’s prospects.
John McCoy, a senior, took fifth place at 145, edging Carter’s Jerry Rubio 9-7 in overtime. The Vikings’ standout evened the match with an escape with 30 seconds to go. From there, it was a matter of producing mistake-free wrestling.
“I just wrestle how I do in practice, and I stick to what I know,” the older McCoy said. “If I do that, I know that I can beat anybody.”
Wilner bested McCoy 5-2 in the consolation semifinals. The Fountain Valley freshman has won all three meetings between the two.
Noah Edsell (126) also reached Saturday’s action for Ocean View. He finished the tournament going 4-2 with two pins, a major decision and a decision.
Selma had 11 medalists to win the tournament for the third year in a row.
Five Counties Tournament
At Fountain Valley High
Locals in Medal Round
126 – D. Zotea (Fountain Valley) dec. Martinez (Eastlake), 8-3. (Third-place match)
145 – Wilner (Fountain Valley) dec. Romero (Lemoore), 7-3. (Third-place match)