Prep Impressions: Feb. 21, 2009
I covered the CIF Eastern Division Wrestling Championships for the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Saturday, Feb. 21 and came away thinking Riverside County may be have the deepest, strongest field of wrestlers in the entire Southern Section.
Of the 14 weight classes being competed, 12 were won by wrestlers from Riverside County. Both Moreno Valley Canyon Springs and Riverside King had three wrestlers earn titles, while both Beaumont and Corona Centennial each had two wrestlers earn titles.
Perris Citrus Hill head coach Scott Schumm, also the tournament’s host, said that he was pleased to be showcasing so many good wrestlers from the Inland Empire.
“There’s 7-or-8 kids who will place at the state meet. Each weight class has two or three good kids. It goes to show how strong the wrestling teams are in Riverside County,” Schumm said. “I think Riverside County is the strongest county, in terms of wrestling, in CIF. We’ve placed more athletes at state than either L.A. or Orange County.”
Riverside King coach Harlon Kisner was even more emphatic with his thoughts about the dominance of wrestlers in Riverside County.
“We already have several wrestling dynasties in the area (Canyon Springs, Corona Centennial, Temecula Valley) and we’re starting to build several more. There’s a lot of really good programs coming up.”
Centennial is perhaps the strongest program in recent memory, with seven CIF Division championships to its credit. The Huskies placed six wrestlers in championship semifinals over the weekend but only Denzel Hawkins (145 pounds) and J.T. Felix (189 pounds) earned individual titles. Centennial finished third overall.
Felix, a junior, is something of a physical specimen. At 6-foot-3, 189ish, the kid has a big-time body which he also used to help his school win the 2008 CIF Div. I football championship as the Huskies’ starting right guard.
Asked what he could do to improve himself next season, he kind of smiled and then spoke of loftier goals.
“As as senior, I’ll have a shortened (class) schedule which will allow me to be in both 4th period football, which is mandatory for varsity players, and 6th period wrestling,” Felix said. “I haven’t been able to be in wrestling during the fall so next year will be different. I’ll be around all the time and just try to be a good leader and role model.”
With all the extra time he has next year it may look as though Felix’s opponents next season — both on the field and on the mat — are in for a world of hurt.
Canyon Springs, which finished second overall, was very well represented as Estevan Cabanas (112 pounds), Brandon Johnson (160 pounds) and Jacob Rodriquez (171 pounds) all earned titles.
Rodriquez, a self-assessed MMA nut, wrestled in the meet with tears to his ACL and MCL in his right knee. With no future plans to wrestle, Rodriquez said he expects to have surgery to repair his knee before seeking a career as a mixed-martial artist.
King’s winners were Kalin Goodsite (135 pounds), Josh Juarez (140 pounds) and Josh Lee (275 pounds).
Lee, something of a gentle giant, pinned his opponent in the finals, Chino Hills Ayala’s Devon Young, in 2:36 to prove he earned his No. 1 overall seed. In fact, Lee dominated his opponents en route to his first CIF title, pinning each in less than three minutes and all but one in under two. His quarterfinal victory came by pin after only :28 seconds.
“I put a lot of effort into my pinning combinations,” Lee said.
Man, I’ll say. Every bit 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, Lee was the most physically impressive athlete at the meet and figures to be the heavyweight favorite at both CIF Masters and State meets.
And these are but a few of the Riverside County prep wrestlers who left Perris Citrus Hill High School with large smiles and even larger rug burns on their faces. Both testaments to hard work, determination and ultimately, success.