The South San Francisco High School wrestling team battled its way to a Peninsula Athletic League championship last season. The Warriors came into this year knowing they were going to have to fight even harder to defend it.
As they prepare for the start of league dual meets, a match at Half Moon Bay tonight kicks off the slate, the Warriors appear more than ready for a successful defense.
South San Francisco has taken just eight wrestlers to four preseason tournaments and come away with some impressive team and individual finishes.
Three top-10 finishes — including a recent second-place finish at the Peninsula Tournament — have Warriors wrestling coach Steve Matteucci feeling very good about his team.
“We’ve been bringing home lots of individual medals, even with fewer wrestlers than other teams this year,” Matteucci said. “That’s what we teach, fighting through adversity and succeeding.”
Of course, having several returning league champions up and down the roster helps the Warriors cause. Led by Calvin Nicholls at 171 pounds — who is off to a 17-0 start — Matteucci has four individual league champions and one league runner-up going this year.
Nicholls is clearly the team’s anchor, ranked No. 1 in the Central Coast Section in his weight class, and serves as the team’s captain.
“He’s our leader on and off the mat,” Matteucci said. “He works harder than any kid I’ve ever coached.”
Back in early 2010, shortly after the wrestling season had ended, Nicholls’ goal was to claim a section championship in this, his senior year. But with the start he is off to, Nicholls has his sights set a little higher.
“They give out medals to the top eight wrestlers in every division at the state meet,” Matteucci said. “We’ve been having some serious discussions lately about him medaling at state. He could do it.”
Although Nicholls has the top ranking in CCS, he isn’t currently ranked in the state. A fact Matteucci figures will change soon.
“Those rankings were made before he started putting in the work he’s done this year,” Matteucci said. The coach added that this is the first year that Nicholls has foregone football to focus strictly on wrestling.
Brenton Yu (112 pounds), Jesse Martinez (135) and Fallah Falen (160) are the Warriors’ other defending league champions, and the trio is also off to a solid start.
In addition to the Warriors’ experience, they are getting an infusion of talented youth. Sophomore Arthur Georgiyev at 152 pounds is also expected to contribute valuable match points.
The Warriors will get a good read on their chances to repeat as PAL champions tonight as they face a tough Cougars squad they are expected to battle with for this year’s crown.
“We’re both considering it the championship match,” Matteucci said. “We’re both upset it’s the first match out of the gate, though.”