Falling just two points shy of a tie with first-place College Park, the Lions wrestled beyond what head coach Greg Chappel expected. But his greatest pleasure came from beating third-place De La Salle by 15 points.
"I would have been excited just to finish in the top five. To be two points out of first blew my mind," Chappel said. "College Park had nine kids seeded in the top eight or better and we had just five. They were supposed to be so far out in front. I was flabbergasted to do as well as we did."
Freshman Paul Gomez (103 pounds) and sophomore David Klingsheim (112) earned first-place titles in their divisions. Senior Mike Bodkin (130), junior Roger Hutchison (119) and sophomore David Rios (135) also earned bids to state placing second, third and fourth, respectively. At the all-girl NCS Championships at Castro Valley High School, Liberty's Brittany David earned her first NCS title in the 146-pound division. She pinned Pittsburg's Simone Escaheda at the 4:28 mark in the final round.
Photo courtesy of deltaonsitephoto.com
The Liberty High wrestling team brought home the second-place banner from last weekend's North Coast Section Championships at Newark Memorial High School.
For Gomez, who remains undefeated on the season, a win over San Marin's Theo Phan by technical fall in the semifinal round, sent him to the finals where he earned the 5-0 decision over James Logan's Lawrence Blanco to claim his first NCS title.
Chappel expects his freshman phenom to showcase his solid technical skills and tremendous heart this weekend but isn't sure he can muscle up to some of the state's top competitors.
"Even if he doesn't place this weekend, he's definitely a state placer next year," Chappel said. "We're just thrilled he made it this far so early in his career."
For Klingsheim, who bettered last year's third-place performance to earn his first NCS title, the road to state has been one paved with hard work.
"He's improved so much from last year," Chappel said. "He did everything we asked him to in the off-season and probably more. It's made a huge difference. In the finals, he just dominated the kid."
After falling to Foothill's Kellen Aura last year at the state meet, Klingsheim tallied a 3-0 record against the high school senior this season, including a 9-5 decision in NCS finals.
"It felt good to beat him again," Klingsheim said. "I knew Kellen was gonna be ready to go but I was still pretty confident."
In his second appearance at the state meet, Klingsheim's ultimate goal is to "make it to the finals." After testing the waters at the big tournament last year, he said he now knows what to expect.
"I have some pretty tough draws in my first matches but I still have a shot at it," he said. "Last year I was kind of nervous. It was a big place, there were a lot of people and I was just a freshman. This year I feel a little more ready."
In addition to the five state meet qualifiers, Chappel noted the individual efforts of sophomores Chris Leyen, Dallin Moravec and Ryan Smith, all of whom provided additional points to Liberty's team score. He anticipates the trio will continue to improve in the off-season months.
Chappel and the Lions head south to Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena on Thursday after school. The two-day meet begins Friday at 8 a.m.