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A league above the rest After a stellar 2017-18 season MVHS wrestling is facing new challenges competing in a higher division

Written by Tyler Cho and Anish Vasdudevan.

Unbeatable. Last season, MVHS wrestling dominated the El Camino division, losing only one dual meet. This newfound success allowed the team to move up into the De Anza Division, but some of its key players have since graduated, bringing new challenges this season as they had to start fresh and find a new formula for success.

Senior Chris Lee is optimistic about his team’s potential in the new league, but admits that other schools have more numbers and are “just more intimidating.” According to Lee, only hard work and grit will allow the Matadors to accomplish their goal of placing in league finals this season.

“I think our team is strong this year only if we put in the work,” Lee said. “It’s just the intimidation factor that we are struggling with. I think we have the potential to do really well, but we just need to be focused. We want everyone to place in league — that's our goal.”

According to sophomore Akhil Manjesh, another difference between the two divisions is the players themselves and their dedication to the sport. Manjesh stated that many wrestlers use the season as conditioning for other sports, such as football, but in the De Anza division the players are much more serious about the sport and train specifically for wrestling.

Wrestling coach Ceazar Agront recognized the tendency for teams that just moved up into a higher league — they normally fall back down the following year. But, he also stated that this trend only fueled his determination to help the MVHS team succeed in the more competitive De Anza Division.

“Moving up, all of our wrestlers knew in order to change the mold, we’d have to compete harder, practice harder, drill harder and show up when it comes to league finals,” Agront said. “The pressure the kids are feeling is to practice harder, just to go 110 percent and do something different, because if you’re doing something different than what you did prior you’re going to get different results. We don’t want the same results as last time, we want to do better.”

Senior Satoshi Ueda attempts to pin a Palo Alto HS player during a match. Ueda is captain of the team this season who has been a part of this team during their transition period into a higher league. Photo by Anish Vasudevan.

To enforce this new culture, the team developed an intense practice schedule. The practice includes constantly rehearsing moves and fundamentals to improve technique or learning new skills to implement in matches while mixing in sparring matches to prepare for tournaments. Another key aspect of the team’s preparation is working with players from Homestead HS, which Lee explains helps them practice for matches since they are wrestling with players they are not familiar with.

“[Two years ago,] we were a joint team with Homestead HS and MVHS,” Lee said. “This year and last year [we practiced with HHS] and I think the beneficial part of doing that is that you get to wrestle with other people. If we were by ourselves we would just be wrestling the same people over and over again which is not a real life situation because you know [your opponent well].

This mixture of sparring and working on technical details is something that the team has been working on perfecting this year. According to Manjesh, last year the team focused a lot on an aggressive mentality; however, this year they are trying to find a more technical approach to wrestling.

“This [season] we have been focusing more on technicality, working on what you can do to get you in the right place,” Manjesh said. “We have cohesively brought those two sides together, having a really good mindset and that physical mentality.”

Agront explains that the new mentality the athletes have taken on has already yielded positive results, citing the team’s dominating performance in a San Ramon tournament as a reason for confidence in the team’s future.

Senior and captain Peter Heydinger stares down his opponent during a match. Like Ueda, Heydinger has won a majority of his matches during the regular season and is looking to make it to the postseason after league finals on Feb. 9, 2019. Photo by Anish Vasudevan.

However, even with some successes, the Matadors have their work cut out for them, still having no wins in their division. Agront believes that the future is bright for future seasons and he hopes that continued determination during practice will eventually result in MVHS sending several wrestlers to compete in events as far as the state championship.

“We’ve learned that a good program has to be structured, has to be conditioned and overall has to be [superbly executed],” Agront said. “Going forward, now that we’re out of the breaking [stage], I think we’re going to finally see progressive change.”

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