Jags hope to get their numbers up

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There might not be quite as many experienced wrestlers on the Valencia High team this season as there are on some other squads.

However, the Jaguars should definitely have some veterans leading the way — including a state champion.

After having appeared in a state championship match as an eighth-grader and freshman, and placing third as a sophomore, Carlos Montaño finally won a state title last February, as a junior. Along with returning state placers Shai Gonzales and Ryan Hibdon, Montaño hopes to lead the small core of veterans and newcomers to success in 2012-13.

Valencia, which earned four points in voting in Class 4A in this year's preseason News-Bulletin coaches poll, opens the season at an APS individuals tournament at Valley High on Saturday, Dec. 8.

"We're hoping to have a full team of 14 guys this year," said Tom Torres, the Jaguar coach. "We're still looking for guys at 195 and 220 pounds."

Valencia had eight wrestlers place in the top four at last year's District 6-4A meet. They all advanced to the state meet, where the Jaguars placed 11th with 84 points.

Montaño is the second state champion in Valencia wrestling's short history — Stevie Garcia won a title in 2008-09. The senior will wrestle this year at either 138 or 145 pounds.

There are a number of challengers at either of those weights, who would like to stop Montaño from repeating as a state champion. The Capital High wrestler who Montaño edged in the state finals by a 2-0 score, Ernesto Salvidrez, is a sophomore who has waged several close battles with the Valencia senior.

Gonzales placed third at state in his weight class in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He wrestled at 138 pounds last year, and he'll go at 145 or 152 pounds as a senior.

Hibdon placed fourth at 160 pounds in his first appearance at state. He'll be at either 160 or 170 pounds this year.

There were a few Jaguars who, while they didn't place in the top six to earn a state medal, showed potential.

Senior Ramon Fuentes hopes to improve upon his 2011-12 performance, where he was one match away from placing in the top six at 182 pounds. He'll stay at that weight this year.

Albert Sanchez placed third at district in a tough 126-pound field as an eighth-grader, and pinned two opponents at state. Freshman Joseph Barela was one of the Jags' state qualifiers last year as a freshman.

Another senior, Luis Soto, battled through three close matches at 145 pounds at district last year.

Jacob Baca is a senior who won three matches at state last season. He could end up with the 160-pound spot.

LoriAnn Archuleta, who Torres said is the first female varsity wrestler in Valencia's short history, lost both of her matches at district, but the coach said the junior is much stronger and has better technique, and would be in the 106-pound class.

Jacob Pino is who Torres mentioned regarding the 113-pound spot.

Torres said there are other wrestlers who might contribute. He gives each potential wrestler at least one week off if they were finishing up football season, so it may take weeks for his lineup to materialize.

As the only coach in the program's short five-year history, Torres has had to deal with academic eligibility, violations of school rules and wrestlers who quit or don't attend practice often enough.

Last season, Torres dealt with concerns over staph infections that led to an increased focus on disinfecting the VHS wrestling room. He said that with all the outside paperwork and other extraneous tasks for coaches, his patience for lack of dedication has worn thin.

"I've been coaching for 37 years," said Torres, 60. "Just the documentation now takes a ton of time. We used to have one sheet for a physical, and now it's a whole packet. We have weight management, hydration, grade checks, an anti-hazing video (to watch). I can do all of that. But not coming to practice? I can't do that. I need conditioned guys."


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.