Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - February 8, 2013

Gunn wrestlers hope to pin down another title

Palo Alto would like to join the Titans among the contenders at the SCVAL Championships this weekend

by Keith Peters

The Gunn wrestling team has been making numerous additions to the program's history book in recent years, like last year's team title at the SCVAL Championships — the program's first since 1976.

The Titans continued to write history this season by winning the Bianchini Memorial tournament, taking second at the San Ramon Invitational and finishing seventh at Mid Cals.

Whether the history book continues to have pages added will be determined over the new few weeks when the Titans compete at the league meet and Central Coast Section championships.

First up is the SCVAL finals on Friday and Saturday at Homestead High in Cupertino. There, Gunn will attempt to defend its title.

"Similar to last year, I think we have the manpower to win league again," said Gunn coach Chris Horpel. "We have clinched the dual-meet title, so now it's time to see what we can do with the league tournament and CCS."

Gunn scored 195.50 points to win the 2012 league finals, holding off Los Gatos (182.50), Monta Vista (165.50) and Palo Alto (148.50). The Titans had only one individual champ, but qualified 12 to the section tournament.

"We have a lot of kids who can make the finals this year," said Horpel, "so I am hoping we will produce more league champions than our one last year."

Gunn comes into the meet ranked sixth in the CCS, but as the highest team from the SCVAL. Monta Vista is No. 10 in the section while Palo Alto is No. 11. The Titans have three wrestlers rated at the top of the league — senior Eric Cramer (126), sophomore Ian Cramer (132) and senior Sean Lydster (195). They rank No. 2, 6 and 7 in the CCS, respectively.

Eric Cramer was third last year in this meet, as was his brother. Lydster was fourth.

Other top Titans include junior Michael Abramovitch at 106 (No. 3 in league), senior Daniel Papp at 120 (No. 2 in league), senior Blaze Lee at 145 (No. 3 in league), junior Stephen Martin at 170 (No. 3 in league) and senior Harsha Mokkarala at 220 (No. 3 in league).

Also expected to compete is junior Cadence Lee at 106. She just won her third straight section title at the Girls' CCS Wrestling Championships despite battling a bad knee. Lee has qualified for the girls' CIF State Meet.

"Cadence has a bad knee and her state championship has priority over our league tournament," said Horpel. "On the other hand, she is an integral part of our being able to win this thing (as she was last year). She is a prospective league champion and has a 20-1 record against the boys. So, I am playing it by ear with her wrestling at league."

After thinking about that for a moment, Horpel added: "Right now the answer is yes. She will have to re-injure her knee a little for me to say no."

So, pencil in Lee as one of Gunn's title contenders.

While Gunn's season has been filled with positives, Palo Alto has battled injuries and health issues that have decimated its dual-match season.

"We are still dealing with some health and injury issues," said Paly coach Dave Duran. "We are hoping to get everyone back by the weekend. If we do, we will make a splash."

Duran sees Gunn and Monta Vista as the prohibitive favorites for the team title.

"Monta Vista has competed in some tough tournaments this season," said Duran. "This will make a difference for them this weekend and through the CCS tournament. The dual-meet champions (Gunn and Cupertino) are usually a strong contender for the tournament title. However, only one EC (El Camino Division) dual champion has won the tournament title (Los Altos in the mid-1990s). Tino is young; they may not have enough points to make a dent. Fremont and Wilcox are young and have been wrestling well. They both have a few wrestlers who can score big points this weekend."

Palo Alto also has its share of contenders and point scorers, depending once again on health issues.

Senior Trent Marshall is the No. 1-ranked SCVAL wrestler at 152 pounds. He was third in this meet last year. Senior Erik Anderson is No. 1 at 182 pounds (No. 4 in CCS) and will defend the title he won last season. Paly junior Andrew Frick is rated No. 2 at 220 pounds (No. 4 in CCS) and looks to improve upon last year's third-place finish.

Paly senior Gary Hohbach, who was seventh at the league meet last year, is ranked only No. 13 in the CCS at 152 pounds but has had a very solid season and could be a big point-scorer. Junior Jordan Gans (160) and senior Alex Taussig (195) also could factor in the scoring.

Wrestling begins each day at 10 a.m., with finals on Saturday evening.

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