With more than half of the season’s tournaments completed and two victories out of three dual meets under their belt, the wrestling team is training hard to finish the rest of the season strong.
Despite injuries that took out two of its starters, the team produced a slew of champions and placewinners from its 31 boys and 13 girls. This is one of Paly’s biggest teams in a while, according to coach Jonathan Kessler.
Junior captain Adar Schwarzbach and sophomore Cade Creighton both placed as champions in the Webber Lawson tournament on Dec. 13-14. In the Lou Bronzan tournament on Dec. 20-21, senior team captain Dara Heydarpour and Schwarzbach were both champions while Creighton took second place.
During their two victorious dual tournaments, Kessler said varsity returners, upperclassmen and a few others shined, including sophomore Tiep Nguyen and junior Dean Hall, a first-year high school wrestler who hasn’t wrestled competitively since middle school. On Jan. 14, Nguyen got a pin against Lynbrook while wrestling varsity, and Hall got a pin against Gunn on Jan. 16.
The boys and girls varsity took home multiple medals in the MidCal tournament, scoring ninth and eighth place, respectively. In boys varsity, Creighton took second place, Schwarzbach and junior Halo Lynch took fourth place and Heydarpour took fifth place.
As for girls varsity, sophomore Aviv Kobza took third while seniors Zoe Wong-VanHaren and Amelia Clough took fourth place. Sophomore Ella Jauregui also took third place, beating the number one female wrestler in Central Coast Section, 18-4.
“In the past, we haven’t had too many place winners (at MidCal), so it was nice to send six wrestlers and earn four medals for the boys and four medals for the girls as well,” Kessler said.
Now that CCS and states are approaching, Kessler said he has adapted his practices to be shorter and more intense in order to help his wrestlers reach their goals, whether it be making CCS or placing top three at CCS.
“Each wrestler has individual goals, and it’s part of the coaching staff’s job to put them in position to reach those goals,” Kessler said.
Team spirit stands strong with Schwarzbach, who said he aims to add to team history by winning a title at CCS and states.
“I think that (winning a CCS title) would be really big for the program, and it would be really big for me mentally, as it’s one of my biggest goals since I’ve started wrestling,” Schwarzbach said. “I think that it’s been 11 years since we’ve had a state placer. We’ve only had a couple in the program history, and I just think that would be a big achievement.”
Jauregui has similar goals.
“I’d love to place at CCS and move onto states and hopefully get on the podium at states,” Jauregui said. “That would be really great to do this year.”
Heydarpour says he has high hopes for the rest of the season, with this year’s team being a step above the previous years’ because of the number of returning players and its immense improvement.
“I think we have a good shot at the league title,” Heydapour said. “Last year, we took second, so this year I think we should easily be second again, and we should have a good chance at beating Los Gatos, which is first. A bunch of us have shots at CCS titles or at least qualifying for the state meet, which is good.”