NCS wrestling predictions in review

Ten’s not bad but it could have been better.

I was able to correctly predict 10 of the 14 champions and 20 of the 28 finalists from the North Coast Section wrestling championships this past weekend at Newark Memorial High School.

Eleven No. 1 seeds won titles. The non-No. 1 seeds who won NCS championships were James Logan’s Jacob Gire (No. 3 at 125), De La Salle’s Nick Pica (No. 4 at 189) and Ferndale’s John Thurston (No. 3 at 275).

As expected, 189 and 275 were the most wide open divisions. At 189, the No. 4 seed defeated the No. 2 seed (Antioch’s Jake Bingham) in the final. The heavyweight division was even wilder. The championship match was between the No. 3 and 4 seeds. No. 1 seed Matt Zonfrello of College Park lost in the first round as evidence of how much parity existed.

What results surprised you the most and why?


NCS wrestling predictions

Today, my North Coast Section wrestling predictions ran in the Times. Readers may wonder how I came up with the picks I made. Here’s a rundown of the process and reasons why I made the predictions I made.

First, No. 1 seeds usually win. Not all of them, but most. The hard part is figuring out which ones I dont’ think will win titles. Foothill’s Kellen Aura (103), Campolindo’s Nikko Triggas (112), Las Lomas’ Jason Welch (152) and Las Lomas’ Jason Swisher (215) were the easiest ones to predict titles for based on how they’ve dominated their respective weight classes, particularly in tough tournaments such as the Mission San Jose Invitational.

Second, I have results from several tournaments and duals I’ve covered throughout the season and have gotten results from events I was not assigned to cover like the Five Counties Invitational on TheCaliforniaWrestler.com. Tournament results and league duals are a good resource to use when comparing wrestlers to each other.

Third, I have a secret source. He is knowedgeable and deeply-involved in the local wrestling scene. I had him break down the contenders in each weight class and he gave me his opinions as to who he thinks will reach the championship round, who will win and which wrestlers not seeded 1 or 2 who are capable of pulling an upset in the semifinals and finals. In the end, I’ll take the credit and the blame for the predictions, but his opinions were heavily considered.

The hardest part of the process was figuring out how the out-of-the-area wrestlers would do. Since the Times does not cover the Redwood Empire, my knowledge of wrestlers from schools like Healdsburg, Analy, Willits and Ferndale (just to name a few) is very limited. A lot of these kids don’t wrestle outside their area so it’s hard to figure out how good they really are. Some wrestle in the Mission San Jose Invitational, but other than that, there’s not much else to go on.

Last year, I was only successful in predicting nine champions out of 14. I tried to pick some upsets but 12 of the 14 No. 1 seeds took home NCS championships. This time, I picked 11 No. 1’s to emerge as champs.


Rough and Tumble Soccer

There is a fine line between physical play and just plain dirty and that line was blurred on Wednesday during Monte Vista’s 2-1 win over De La Salle in the semifinals of the 3A NCS playoffs.

There was lots of shoving, elbows, guys falling on other guys, players pushing opposing players, stare downs, cursing, trash talking (between parents and coaches?), dads having to restrain their sons, yellow cards galore.

If the teams’ wanted to play rough then a rugby match would be in order. Rarely, and I mean RARELY, were there any sequences where touch passing was involved, or the ball was kept on the ground for a considerable amount of time. The whole 50/50 ball and throw-in/set piece kick into the box style isn’t easy on the eyes for soccer fans and gets old real quick. Plus, it leads to a considerable amount of contact and people can get hurt, both physically and emotionally. How? The physical part is obvious, but emotionally, guys have pride and when another dude plows into them, they usually won’t let it slide that easily after the umpteenth time. Thus, tensions rise and we have a street fight on our hands. Nobody wants to see that.

Maybe that phsyical type of soccer can win you games, but please give me the one-touch soccer, the finesse soccer, the soccer that makes you say "WOW" for a fantastic skillfull play, and not because some kid just receieved an elbow to the chin and has to sit out.

It is matches like DLS vs. MV on Wednesday that make the line between tough and dirty nearly disappear.


Boys basketball bubble-watch: Division III

Much like Division II, the drama of Division III is very limited. There will, however, be a full field of 12 teams.
Through Tuesday, 13 teams are qualified to attend Sunday’s NCS seeding meetings at Las Lomas High School.
Here’s a look at who has qualified, and what teams are likely to be fighting for that 12th spot.

Bracket: 12 teams
Qualified teams: 13
Locks (6): Campolindo (22-3), De Anza (20-5), Del Norte (17-3), Windsor (19-8), Sir Francis Drake (18-8), Bishop O’Dowd (16-8).
Somewhat comfortable (3): Miramonte (17-8), Novato (15-11), El Cerrito (13-11)
Sweating it out (4): Analy-Sebastapol (14-13), Alhambra (13-11), Fortuna (11-9), Acalanes (12-13)

The "locks" are based on overall records, potential league championships and strength of schedule. Those six teams may not land the top six seeds, but they are sure to crack the field somewhere.
The three teams listed under "comfortable" don’t necessarily fall in the "lock" category, but aren’t likely to be overlooked by the seeding committee and should fall somewhere between Seeds 6-10.
That leaves four bubble teams fighting for three spots. Though likely to finish with a 14-14 record, Analy is probably the most comfortable of the four bubble teams, having a pair of wins over Windsor. Alhambra should also be in pretty good shape. The Bulldogs are likely to finish 14-11 and boast two wins over Acalanes, which may tip the scales if it comes down to them and the Dons for the final spot. The big knock against Fortuna will be its strength of schedule, though a win against Analy could come in helpful. And finally there is Acalanes, which is eligible thanks to a 7-5 record vs. Division III opponents. The Dons must hope that a pair of wins over Miramonte and  competitive losses to Windsor (49-46 OT) and Bishop O’Dowd (35-32) are enough to sway the seeding committee.

Thursday, we’ll take a quick look at Division IV.


Boys basketball bubble-watch: Division II

The bubble-watch for the Division II field isn’t nearly as dramatic as Division I (which was covered in Friday’s notebook). In fact, there is a possibility that there may not be enough qualifiers to fill out the entire 12-team bracket.
Through Sunday, 11 teams had secured tournament eligibility. And it’s more than likely that those will be the only teams to qualify. There is just one bubble team, and its bubble as as thin as they come.
Here’s a quick look at the field.

Bracket: 12-teams
Qualifiers by overall winning record/league championship (10): Eureka (22-4), Tennyson (20-4), Las Lomas (20-4), Montgomery (20-6), Casa Grande (19-7), Pinole Valley (17-7), Richmond (16-7), Clayton Valley (16-8), American (14-12), Ukiah (14-12)
Qualifiers by division winning record (1): Ygnacio Valley (12-12)
Maria Carrillo (12-14)
The Pumas’ only shot at getting in would mean winning the North Bay League playoffs. It’s an extreme longshot, considering that the bracket will include Cardinal Newman, Montgomery and Rancho Cotate. Maria Carrillo is 1-5 this season against those teams.

Wednesday we’ll take a peek at Division III.


League wrestling titles on the line

League wrestling champions will be crowned on Friday and Saturday. The Bay Shore Athletic League championships are Friday, while the Bay Valley Athletic League, Diablo Foothill Athletic League and East Bay Athletic League will hold their championships on Saturday.

In the BSAL, Albany easily won the duals title. However, 14 individual titles are on the line at California School for the Deaf in Fremont. The tournament starts at 4 p.m. Albany is the defending team champion. St. Patrick-St. Vincent should contend for second place. The top three wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the North Coast Section championships.

In the BVAL, Liberty is looking to dethrone Antioch as the team champ. The Lions won the league dual title. The championships start Saturday morning at Liberty. De La Salle should give Liberty a run for its money. In this league, the top four placers advance to the NCS championships.

The DFAL tournament is at Dublin all day Saturday. College Park had to get past Mt. Diablo and Miramonte last week to complete an undefeated season in DFAL duals. Expect those three teams to battle it out for the league championship, with College Park the favorite. The Falcons also won the NCS 3A East Bay duals title last week while the Red Devils claimed the 2A championship. Campolindo’s Nikko Triggas (112 pounds) and Las Lomas’s Jason Welch (152) are ranked No. 2 in the state in their weight class by TheCaliforniaWrestler.com. The top three placers in each weight division advance to the NCS.

Foothill is hosting Saturday’s EBAL championships. It starts at 9 a.m. Foothill and Granada have been the top two teams in the league all season, with the Falcons narrowly defeating the Matadors in their league dual and by a slightly wider margin at last weekend’s NCS team 3A duals championship at Granada. Foothill then advance to the final and fell to College Park. The top three in each weight class qualify for NCS. Foothill’s Kellen Aura (103) is ranked No. 2 in the state.

Which teams do you think will emerge as league champs and why?


Relating to Richmond

The first time I saw the Richmond boys soccer team play, it was against De La Salle in 2005. It was raining hard that day, but the Oilers managed to pull out a hard fought 1-0 victory.

I wasn’t rooting for Richmond, but being Latino, I couldn’t help but feel proud. I somehow was connected to the Oilers. I could relate with the players because I myself looked like them. The names on their roster were similar to mine. They communicated on the field in Spanish and I understood every word. I saw my older cousins in them. I saw my family.

My grandmother immigrated to this country in the 1970’s and one at a time, brought her nine children from Honduras, Central America. One of them was my father, he was 17. My family worked hard to buy a house in Los Angeles before finally moving and settling in Lynwood, Ca, a city not unlike Richmond.

It was there were my older cousins played on the Lynwood High soccer team in the late 1980’s. Lynwood’s claim to fame is that it’s the city next to Compton. Gangs were visible, drugs easy to find. The city is made up of low income, blue collar families. Because my cousins couldn’t speak English or dressed a certain way, they were ridiculed on campus. They wouldn’t want to wear their soccer warm ups because it meant they were on the soccer team and seen as “wet backs.” They persevered.

When I was in high school I played volleyball. It’s not a sport viewed as one dominated by the Hispanic culture. We faced the same stereotypes and endured the sideway looks when we traveled to cities like Cerritos and Downey, mostly white, affluent areas back then.

The point is, when I saw how competitive the Richmond team was, I couldn’t help to think how the team had over come all those obstacles and negative views. How by winning on the field and exhibiting sportsmanship, the Oilers had silenced their critics and gain new supporters.

What people sometimes forget is that Latino immigrants come to this country with the same hopes and dreams that any immigrant from any country does: To work, to become successful, to provide for their family. That’s what I see in the Richmond Boys soccer team, young men trying to make it in spite of what may or may not stand against them. My family made it. My older cousins have gone on to live successful lives. Many of the Oilers will as well.


Mission San Jose aftermath and DFAL double duals

Not only is the Mission San Jose Invitational a great East Bay wrestling tournament, it proved to be a great tournament for competitors in the Times’ region.

There was at least one wrestler from the region in 13 of the 14 championship matches. Of those 13, eight were champions.

Foothill’s Kellen Aura (103 pounds) and Tommy Wipfli (130), Granada’s Sean Jackson (125) and Daryl Pasut (189), Las Lomas’ Jason Welch (160) and Jason Swisher (215), Alhambra’s Jordan Abed (152) and Campolindo’s Nikko Triggas (112) emerged as champs.

Abed and Pasut’s championships were the least likely considering they were not seeded in the top two in their respective brackets. However, championships are nothing new for Abed. He recently won titles in the Lawrence Miller Memorial and Ygnacio Valley Pride Tournament. That’s three championships in three weeks.

Thursday’s Diablo Foothill Athletic League double duals at Alhambra and Campolindo should feature some great wrestling as well. Team-wise, the dual between College Park and Mt. Diablo at Alhambra is the most highly-anticipated of the season. They finished second and third in the team scores, respectively, in the Lou Bronzan Invitational at Liberty in December and have been considered the favorites this season in the DFAL. The Falcons and Red Devils enter the week as the lone undefeated teams in the DFAL. They are both 7-0. The event starts at 4 p.m.    


Hard to fathom

I was amazed to hear that a high school basketball player had scored 113 points in a game. But the whole scenario also seemed pretty sad. 

On Wednesday night, Epiphanny Prince of Murry Bergtraum High in New York City scored 113 points to help ‘lead’ her team to a 137-32 win over a clearly overmatched Brandeis squad http://www.usatoday.com/sports/front.htm   . Murry Bergtraum has been a national power in girls basketball for years, and, I’m guessing, Brandeis has been a national power in speech and debate for years.

Prince just had one of those nights when everything turned to gold, hitting 54 of 60 shots. After she had 38 points in the first quarter, you can almost hear the wheels turning in her coach’s head, that this was the night that one of his players could set the national single-game scoring record, which had been held by Cheryl Miller when she had 105 playing for Riverside Poly in 1982. So, Ed Grezinsky let Prince keep doing what she was doing. She had 20 points in the second, 25 in the third and 30 in the fourth. And a new national mark was set.

But what did it prove? That Prince is a gifted shooter? People around NYC probably already knew that. That Brandeis’ coaching staff couldn’t make a halftime adjustment if their wool sweaters depended on it? People, I’m guessing, probably knew that too.

So, really, nothing new (or good) came out of that game. Besides, Prince’s record is as big a sham as Miller’s was. Miller scored her 105 in a 179-15 win over Riverside Norte Vista. I guess you could say that at least she involved her teammates. Miller defended Grezinsky’s actions, saying, "That’s what this game’s all about, special moments in special situations. Instead of people getting their feelings hurt, they should pat (Prince) on the back."

The Brandeis players probably knew that they were going to get smoked on Wednesday, so they probably didn’t feel any worse just because it was mainly one person administering the punishment. I’m guessing the players shook the hands of their opponents, gathered their belongings and headed home with a story to tell.

And at the end of the day, there’s very little that’s special about it. She had a great shooting night, but just 12 of her points came from beyond the arc. How many came in transition, off turnovers, without a defender in sight?

As a point of reference, Courtney Paris, arguably the most dominating girls basketball player to ever play in the East Bay, had just 20 points last year when Piedmont crushed Salesian 89-29. Piedmont routinely crushed their opponents in 2004-05. Yet the coaching staff knew when to pull back. Hey, blowouts are a part of sports. But there is a classy way. And that seemed to be lost on the coaching staff of Murry Bergtraum. This record means nothing.


Points in high demand

The top two girls basketball players in Northern California will share the same court this weekend.

After spending the summer wreaking havoc together, Carondelet’s Jayne Appel and St. Mary’s-Stockton Jacki Gemelos will get to beat up on each other on Saturday.

Carondelet travels to Stockton to face St. Mary’s in the fourth edition of the annual meeting between the two teams at 4 p.m.

Appel and Gemelos both toured the country together on the East Bay Xplosion and competing at various camps, including the Nike and the USA development camp.

Saturday the two Pac-10 bound players will put their scoring talents on display. Appel, who will play at Stanford, has hit her high-school career high of 39 points twice this season. Gemelos, who will play at USC, scored 52 points back on Jan. 12. So expect a lot of scoring from the two. It is too bad that they won’t be guarding each other time with Gemelos being a guard and Appel playing in the post.

It should also be a big test for Carondelet’s defense, which hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 61 points this season. St. Mary’s has topped the century mark three times in its last eight games.