Five Counties update… and a shocker to boot!

As might have been expected, Nikko Triggas won the 119 pound title at the Five Counties meet at Fountain Valley High School on Saturday. Somewhat less expected was Foothill’s Tommy Wipfli winning the 135-pound title also. But, in what some might call an upset, Alhambra’s Jordan Abed is also bringing home some hardware, defeating Half Moon Bay’s Joey Wilson 5-4 to win the 152 pound title.

Other local finishers:
David Klingsheim (Liberty) placed fourth at 112 pounds. Kellen Aura (Foothill) finished fifth.
David Prado (Freedom) placed fifth at 125 pounds.
Tyler Sheridan (De La Salle) placed seventh at 135 pounds

Triggas (lower weights) and Abed (middle weights) were named tournament MVP’s. What a day for East Bay wrestling.


A coach worth remembering

When he first took over as the boys soccer coach at Pittsburg some 15 years ago, Mario Gonzalez had trouble just finding enough players to field a full team.

By the time he left the school last year, the Pirates had more than 80 players showing up for tryouts and were fielding varsity and junior varsity teams. They were also winners, having become annual playoff contenders after years of residing in the Bay Valley Athletic League cellar.

Paco Gonzalez, who started as an assistant under Mario in 1999 and took over for him as the Pirates’ head coach this season, plans to honor Mario before Pittsburg’s home game against Antioch on Jan. 23. Several former players are expected to show up to acknowledge their former coach.

"He gave (players) the confidence to have a lot of pride and play for their school," Paco Gonzalez said. "Little by little they gained a reputation, and each year they got stronger and stronger."

Check out the high school soccer notebook in today’s Times for more on boys and girls soccer.


EBAL Wrestling News Alert!

Big news from the East Bay Athletic League tonight as Granada knocked off defending champion Foothill 36-30. The Falcons have won the last three EBAL titles. The results weren’t really too unexpected on the Foothill side. Falcon standouts Kellen Aura (112 pounds), Chase Aura (119), Tom Wipfli (135), Elliot Ripley (145), and Tony Barnett (160) all carried championships from Saturday’s Mat Classic into Thursday night’s action and won again. Where Granada made it’s mark was at the higher weights, winning at 171, 189, 215, and 285. The Matadors also added wins at 103, 130, and 140 to win the meet. I’m guessing Clark Conover is one happy coach at the moment.


Soccer squeeze at Richmond High

It is said that futsal, that five-a-side form of soccer played indoors on a basketball court, helps build ball skills as players try to pass and maneuver in limited space. But playing soccer in a school hallway might be stretching (or should we say, compressing?) things a bit. After his team had come from behind on the road to beat Alameda High 3-1 at Thompson Field on Jan. 9, Oilers coach Rene Siles said his players had to practice in the hall of Richmond High the previous night. He added that the team would have to practice in the same venue the following night, Jan. 10, and there again on Jan. 12. On the plus side, the Oilers are getting a new all-weather field. Problem is, that field – – which was expected to have been up and going by now – – is not yet ready for play. Patience is running short.

"It’s just not fair to these kids," Siles says. "They work hard. They are committed."

In the first half of their match with Alameda, the Oilers looked uncharacteristically flat. They had given up a penalty kick for a 1-0 deficit. Notching the equalizer early in the second half seemed to energize the Oilers. And through Jan. 9, the team still was undefeated and untied atop the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League standings.

When all clicks, the Oilers play a most interesting and entertaining brand of soccer. They exude a special passion for the game. This is soccer from the heart, as opposed to some other schools that play the game as if programmed by computer.

The Oilers’ game against Alameda, however, had its rough edges. Though Richmond is a strong team as it is, one wonders what the quality of Oilers soccer could be if the team was able to practice on a full field at its own school.


Grinning and bearing it

Eli Holman’s grin is almost as big as his size 19 shoes.

The 6-foot-10 Richmond High School center showed it off Wednesday, especially when the talk turned to the posterizing (dunking on) of a former 6-9 player from Richmond.

His eyes and face lit up when he recalled how he caught the former player, who shall remain nameless, "slipping" under the basket at 24-hour Fitness in Richmond.

At 17, Holman is your typical teenager, excited and uncertain about his future. He’s looking forward to graduation, and the left-handed big man with an improved 3-point shot is eagerly anticipating his freshman year at Indiana next year after signing with the Hoosiers back on Nov. 8.

But unlike most teenagers, Holman has been the center of controversy and media attention for the last 13 months.

Ever since the incident on Dec. 3, 2005 that changed his life.

In a closely contested game against Tennyson during the Jeremy Jack Invitational tournament, Holman did the unthinkable and pushed an official, not once but twice, after being whistled for a foul.

There isn’t a day that goes by that Holman doesn’t hear about or regret that move.

It essentially cost Holman his high school playing career.

The North Coast Section suspended him for 18 months, but left the door open for his return if he completed a series of tasks, which included anger management, maintaining his grades and staying out of trouble both on and off the court, set out by a three-person committee back in January of 2006.

Holman thought he had completed the tasks, but filing of incorrect paperwork by Richmond High officials resulted in the California Interscholastic Federation denying him reinstatement on Dec. 2, 2006.

"CIF based their decision on inaccurate data provided to them by Richmond High School," said Richmond High principal Orlando Ramos. "Richmond High School accepts full responsibility for these reporting errors."


Wednesday, Richmond High officials held a press conference to admit their mistake and ask the CIF to take a second look at Holman’s reinstatement, this time with the corrected information.

Part of the reason for the press conference was for Richmond to admit and accept its mistake, but to also point out that Holman is not a short-tempered guy.

"I want the public to know that I am not individual that I have been painted to be," Holman said. "I am a compassionate and caring individual. I care about my community. I just want a chance to redeem myself and play well. I was 16 and made a mistake."

Yes, you heard him.

He knows he made a mistake. The only difference is that his has been publicized since he made it.

"There has not been a day that goes by that I don’t hear about it," Holman said. "I made a mistake and hopefully they can forgive and move on."

Holman sought out and apologized to the referee he pushed, David Mullins. The apology was via telephone two months ago.

Wednesday a way from the cameras and reporters, Holman was heard telling Mullins, "Even if I don’t play high school ball again, I just wanted to let you know I am sorry."

With his college future already set, Holman knows he doesn’t have to play high school basketball, but he wants to.

"I feel its important for my team and community and more so the youth," Holman said. "I want to prove it was an honest mistake. Let’s move on. It’s a big thing for my community."


Expect the unexpected in the DFAL

Another day, another major upset in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League. On Monday, it was Northgate over College Park. Tonight, it was previously winless Dublin knocking off Las Lomas.

We already knew the DFAL was wide open and that any number of teams had a chance to win it. Now it’s beginning to look like even the lower teams in the league will be tough to beat, which will make the 18-game schedule all the more grueling.

There was a shakeup at the top of the league tonight, too, as Acalanes and College Park continued each other’s struggles with a 1-1 tie and Concord moved into first place with a 3-1 win over Campolindo. We’re now midway through the DFAL schedule, and the Minutemen might be the only team who can legitimately argue that they are the league’s best team. They’re also the only team in the top half of the league to have won tonight.

Campolindo, the league’s biggest surprise team so far, had a chance to really make some noise with a win over Concord, but the Cougars will have to settle for a first half featuring losses only to the league’s top three teams: Concord, Acalanes and College Park.

Speaking of Campo, check out Friday’s soccer notebook in the Times for the skinny on the Cougars’ new coach, who bears many similarities to last season’s new coach at Miramonte (and the Times’ Coach of the Year), Jovan Milojevich.

EAST BAY ATHLETIC LEAGUE: It was quite a night in the EBAL, too. The only real surprise, if you can call it that, came when Amador Valley’s Luis Rocha scored in the 71st minute to help the Dons sneak away with a 1-1 draw against San Ramon Valley.

Monte Vista and Livermore, meanwhile, had impressive victories with some standout individual performances. Jeff Penna scored an incredible four first-half goals in the Mustangs’ 5-0 win over Granada. And sophomore Polo Morales had two goals and one assist as the Cowboys beat Foothill 6-1 to continue their strong start in league play.

Friday will bring us an early battle for first place between Monte Vista and Livermore. It’ll also feature a much-anticipated rematch of the tremendous Winter Soccer Classic Gold Division championship game, which California won 2-1 in overtime over San Ramon Valley.


No weaknesses

After watching Pinole Valley’s girls basketball team dismantle a good Hercules squad 71-40 on Tuesday, it appears that the Spartans have no weaknesses. DeNesha Stallworth and Marnique Arnold dominated the boards, Jaleesa Ross ran the offense expertly and Mishan Schexnayder was deadly from beyond the three-point arc. Defensively, the Spartans consistently caused havoc and never let the Titans get their offense rolling. This is the best Pinole Valley girls basketball team that I’ve seen in my years with the Times, and that’s saying something considering what the Spartans have achieved in the past few seasons.


Wrestling season rolls on

So we’ve got a few weeks in the books and the wrestling landscape seems to be clearing up a little. I personally took in the action at Granada on Saturday, watching Foothill win the Mat Classic. I was impressed by all five of their champions, most especially Kellen and Chase Aura and Tom Wipfli.

But, we knew those guys were good. This weekend gives us an opportunity to sort out some more of the local scene, namely the Clayton Valley Invitational and San Ramon Valley Invitational. Both meets should offer some quality wrestling but I’m especially curious to see how College Park does at the Clayton Valley meet because I think they’ve only gotten better after the Lou Bronzan Invitational at Liberty and I would expect them to be near the top this weekend.

Lets also keep in mind that the Five Counties meet at Fountain Valley High School is this weekend. Some internet scuttlebutt has Las Lomas junior and state No. 1 at 160 pounds Jason Welch stepping up to 171 pounds to wrestle, potentially against No. 1 ranked Louis Bland of Central Catholic-Modesto. Now that’s a match that I think a lot of people would want to see. All we can do is wait and see.


Monkey off his back

You can guarantee that Kennedy High School boys basketball coach Michael Booker is still smiling.
And he should be.
Booker, who is in his fourth season with the Eagles, hadn’t beat Bay Shore Athletic League foe Salesian since he became coach in the 2003-04 season. Booker had to endure nine straight losses to Salesian, including a 63-46 defeat in last season’s North Coast Section Division IV semifinals.
But Tuesday, thanks in large part to senior Brandon Tatum, who scored 17 of his 25 points after halftime, the Eagles finally beat Salesian 59-45 in the BSAL opener for both teams.
Not only was the victory the first for Booker, but the first for the Eagles since a 60-56 victory on Jan. 14, 2003. Before Tuesday’s win, Kennedy was 0-10 against Salesian.
“Anytime you go 0-10 against a team it gets frustrating,” Booker said. “There times where we have been close but couldn’t get it done.”


Top East Bay teams

When NorCalPreps.com released its girls basketball rankings for this week, it wasn’t surprising to see how Pinole Valley had risen to No. 2 in Northern California.
The Spartans big three of Jalessa Ross, Marnique Arnold and DeNesha Stallworth boast a nice blend of talent, experience and basketball IQ and are too much for teams to handle. The supporting cast of Mishan Schexnayder, Lauryn Newson and Shawntrelle Butler provide nice balance.
Despite a rash of injuries, Deer Valley made its way into the rankings at No. 17. Junior center Ashley Ellis has admirably carried the load for the Wolverines after UNLV-bound Erica Helms went down with an injury.
St. Patricks-St. Vincent jumped up three spots from No. 7 to No. 4 after losing to Pinole Valley by only 10 points at the West Coast Jamboree and blowing out Carondelet 72-55 in the third place game.
Other teams ranked were Berkeley, Northgate and Monte Vista. The Mustangs recently took home the Newark Lady Classic with strong performances by Niveen Rahseed, Stephaine Cornell and Kerry Beeman. The Broncos dominated the Pearl Division at the West Coast Jamboree.
Hercules, which is off to its best start in school history, and St. Mary’s were on the bubble. Miramonte, who had been in the rankings since the preseason, dropped out this week.