Hoover wrestlers ready for first CIF Individuals assignment

Things may not have gone quite as hoped for the Hoover High wrestling team in its inaugural campaign in the Rio Hondo League. The Tornadoes took fifth in the six-team league, but still produced individual success.

With a trio of top-two finishers in their respective weight classes in league, Hoover’s standouts will look to add to their accomplishments with more victories in the CIF Southern Section Eastern Division Individual Championships Friday and hopefully Saturday at Oak Hills High.

“They've got to get past the first match, that's the key,” Hoover Coach Mark Bitetti said of the double-elimination tournament. “There's a chance they may meet some seeded guys ... so if we get past the first match and the jitters of that I think we might be OK.”

Hoover 220-pounder Gio Martinez enters the tournament as the Tornadoes’ only champion from the league tournament on Feb. 2. Juniors Arthur Ghukasyan and Sebastian Ghauliance were runners-up in the 145 and 160-pound classes, respectively.

“I feel good, feel confident, I've been training hard and I feel like I'm ready,” said Ghauliance, a first-year wrestler with a mixed martial arts and muay Thai background, similar to Ghukasyan. “I've just got to go out there, give it my best and see what happens.”

The two-day CIF Southern Section Eastern Division tournament brings together the top-three to four wrestlers at each weight from eight leagues — Rio Hondo, Desert Sky, Golden (four), Mojave River, Mountain Pass, Mt. Baldy (four), San Andreas and Sunset.

Wrestlers are guaranteed just two matches and need to win their way into the second day of the event.

Bitetti and his wrestlers all admitted they don't quite know what to expect, as the second-year program is making its first trip to CIF Individuals.

“It's going to be the best wrestlers, pretty much, out there,” Ghauliance said. “I'm just going to go out there, and all I know is I have to win at least four matches to get to Saturday.”

The top five division finishers at each class of the double-elimination tournament earn a trip to the elite CIF Southern Section Masters competition, which takes place Feb. 22 and 23 at the Stockton Arena.

Martinez said he hasn't even thought about what lies ahead of him much, but hopes to make it to day two with Ghauliance. The senior will look to bounce back quickly from the stomach flu, which kept him out of school Wednesday.

“I am feeling better than I was feeling yesterday, and I'm hoping I'll feel even better tomorrow,” he said.

Ghukasyan has set his sights a bit higher than his teammates.

“I feel good, we'll see what happens,” he said. “I want to try to get to top five. … I'm ready.”

Only two Rio Hondo wrestlers, La Cañada’s Marty Vardanian and South Pasadena’s Ned Estrada, advanced to Masters last year.

“If they made it to Masters that's a huge accomplishment, that's such a big deal,” Bitetti said. “Heck, I guess the first step is let's make it to day two and then we start thinking about the next step after that.”

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World