Galileo has success in very trying times 

After helping Galileo win its third consecutive All-City title, five San Francisco Section champion Galileo wrestlers bused to Bakersfield on Thursday to meet California’s toughest competition head on in the CIF state meet.

Somewhat surprising to learn is that regardless of what titles and accolades the this weekend’s tournament may hold for the Lions’ wrestlers, the team victory at the city meet and defending Galileo’s status as a city power has already meant more to them than any individual accomplishments measured at state.

"We have a strong team and it means a lot to all of us. It’s a matter of pride," said senior Ryan Piliae, who went 32-7 and won the Oakland, Santa Rosa and Berkeley tournaments in heavyweight class. "When I win, it’s like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ but when the team wins it’s like every single person contributed to the effort."

Senior Alex Denny (34-8), who won the Marin Catholic, Berkeley and Oakland tournaments on his way to a city title at 189 pounds, agreed.

"I’d rather have the team win the All-City trophy than me win [as] the state champion," Denny said. "I think it’s more important that the team win than one person."

Galileo won’t be the only team representing The City at state. Lowell and Washington will also send multiple wrestlers. Andrew Yip (112 pounds), Jason Jee (125), Dustin Kwong (130), Scott Denny (160) and Jacob Berry (215) all won section titles for Lowell, while De’Mon Jones (135), Ernest Tong (145) and Demetric Strong (152) will represent the Eagles. Balboa’s Paradise Vaovasa won the 171-pound title, and will also head to Bakersfield.

Galileo has had a trying season that saw difficult losses, losses that primarily came off the mat. The Lions lost two All-City contenders in Tarik Aldelali and Joe Booth-Metwally. Aldelali sustained a debilitating motor scooter accident and Booth-Metwally disappeared, whereabouts unknown.

"It was a lot tougher this year. Last year, we had a lot of good guys," Pilaie said. "We lost a lot of wrestlers for whatever reason and it’s really tough mentally on the guys. With Tarik and Joe, it’s just motivation to win for them and to work hard for them because they can’t be there."

It is also a testament to coach Larry Kane that he was able to allow the misfortunes to inspire and motivate his wrestlers instead of distracting them.

Kane also kept the team grounded, not letting the Lions rest on their laurels as defending city champs.

"We joke about [being a dynasty] but really coach Kane just keeps us focused on one season at a time and not thinking we’re the best out there," Piliae said. "We just go out there and wrestle. Some of the young guys might be thinking the old guys are going to carry us, but everybody has to work and they did their part. The younger guys really stepped it up this year, they all drastically improved."

Junior Sam Chue is one of the younger wrestlers doing his more than his part. Chue’s latest city title is his third in as many years, two at 105 pounds and this year at 119. He admits his actual weight is closer to 115 and said he has had a fever since just after the city meet, which may keep him from wrestling as well as he could.

"I think Alex is a lot more serious, as a senior. I got another year," Chue said. "I’m pretty sick right now, so I don’t know if I can wrestle my hardest."

Denny and Piliae, for whatever satisfaction they feel having won Galileo another title, both say they are prepared to compete and win in individual competition at state.

"This year I’m definitely a lot more confident, definitely in a lot better shape than last year," Piliae said. "From freshman year to now, I’ve improved every year. Last year, honestly I was very intimidated by the other wrestlers [at state]. This year I’m more confident. I’m looking to place if not win it."

CIF STATE MEET

WHEN: Today-Saturday

WHERE: Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield

MORE INFO: www.CIFstate.org

LIVE COVERAGE: The semifinals and finals will be on www.KBCSports.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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