McNamar would emphasize the dominance of junior Kyle Clark in the 215-pound division. Clark has four first place finishes under his belt this season – at the Falcon Shootout, Folsom, Lou Bronzan Invitational and Windsor.
But having recently faced Liberty, the A-plus student of the Bay Valley Athletic League class, McNamar doesn’t want to mince words. Despite impressive victories by Baynes and fellow senior Lucas Hudson, the Panthers took a 56-15 beating at the hands of the Lions.
"Our guys just didn't rise to the occasion," McNamar said. "They came in and kicked our butts and just shut us down."
Even after that loss, Antioch remains one of the top teams to beat in the BVAL, a constant over the past few years.
As a team, the Panthers finished third at the Freedom Duals meet, going 4-1. They went 3-1 at Folsom en route to a third-place finish. Most recently, Antioch took home the championship at the Windsor Invitational. The Panthers have beaten Liberty once head-to-head, also losing once.
“We’re all putting in effort, 100 percent, going hard and pushing each other,” Hudson said.
In his fifth year at Antioch after coaching for Pittsburg, McNamar is maintaining the school’s proud tradition of wrestling excellence. The Panthers have claimed the North Coast Section title three times, most recently in 2005, when they won both dual and team competitions.
They’re now led by a solid group of seniors, including Baynes and Hudson. After last week’s match against Liberty, Baynes holds a 17-6 record. Hudson, in the 171-pound class, is 20-4 on the year and owns first-place finishes at the Folsom, Lou Bronzan and Windsor tournaments. He also placed second at the Falcon Shootout.
Marcus Johnson, a 130-pound senior, is off to a 16-6 start, finishing second at the Falcon Shootout and at Folsom, Lou Bronzan and Windsor. Senior Jeremy Castillo, in the 125-pound class, earned second-place status at the Falcon Shootout and at Folsom.
“I think we’re lined up pretty good with Heritage and Pittsburg, then Freedom; they’ve got a solid lineup,” McNamar said. “They’ve got to man up.”
In the coming years, Antioch will count more on the current junior varsity wrestlers, who are getting important mat time now. JV coach Kurtis Starnes, a 2010 graduate and former Panthers wrestler, said that while many of his athletes are getting an introduction to the sport this year, a few of them are talented grapplers.
Starnes noted that 130-pound sophomores Christian Salazar and Anthony West have been performing well. Brody Rockwell, a 127-pound freshman, and Hugo Rivera, a 171-pound sophomore, have also been key members.