By Bill Tamburrino
Steve Koch, Ramona High wrestling coach, believes wholeheartedly in a quote by the late basketball coach John Wooden: “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”
Koch started the season with a very young varsity wrestling team. Ten sophomores and a freshman wrestled on the varsity this season. Koch and co-head coach Dwayne Guile said they took that talented group and worked them hard. The group responded and on Saturday won the Division III San Diego Section CIF wrestling championship at Mt. Miguel High School.
The championship was Ramona’s fourth overall and the first since 2003.
The Dawgs have finished in second place six times. Not quite a Wooden-like dynasty, but a dynasty just the same.
“Every wrestler contributed,” said an elated Koch. “Every wrestler won at least two matches. This was a team effort. Coach Guile did a great job of getting them ready to wrestle. Coach (John) Rodriguez got them in shape to wrestle. Coach Tyler McKay and Coach Pete Zindler also do a great job of preparing our athletes to wrestle. We were well prepared and in the best shape at the right time. The main ingredient in stardom is the rest of the team.”
Some coaches forfeit weights during league matches if they have inexperienced wrestlers in that weight. Ramona’s staff does the opposite.
Koch has his wrestlers wrestle at the highest possible level. He used over 20 wrestlers in varsity matches so, when injuries hit, a wrestler with experience can jump in. Koch’s strategy paid off with a championship.
Twelve wrestlers qualified for the Masters Meet Friday and Saturday at Otay Ranch High School and two will go as alternates. So the entire team will go.
Ramona had the championship won after the semi-final round as the Bulldogs sent five wrestlers to the finals. The Bulldogs amassed 237 team points to win the championship. Second place Central Union High School had 173.5 points.
Palomar League rival Mt. Carmel came in third with 164.5 and host school Mt. Miguel took fourth with 145.
The Palomar League had a good day in general. Poway won its 25th consecutive Division I championship. Rancho Bernardo took third place in Division II.
Arturo Osorio-Ramirez won the championship in the 128-pound classification and Isaiah Ilich won the championship in the 138-pound class. Both did it with dramatic third period come from behind pins.
Osorio-Ramirez pinned Damian Escalera of Mt. Miguel with 28 seconds left in the third period to earn the gold. Ilich was down by 4 points with 10 seconds left on the clock when he pinned Victor Richmond of Mt. Miguel to claim the title.
Vince Adair (106), Kevin Conroy (132) and Devin Rhodes (170) advanced to the finals. The three came away with silver medals and tickets to the Masters Meet.
Kirk Kaliszewski is the feel-good story of the season. Kaliszewski suffered a leg injury late in the football season and struggled to rehab the injury late into the wrestling season. He finally got medical clearance and wrestled himself into shape and won a third place medal at 152 pounds by pinning Justin Nunez of Central Union in the CIF Championships.
Troy Jordan (145), Noe Hernandez (182), Josh Allen (195) and Zach Berg (220) all took fourth place and all will go to the Masters.
Jureall Simmons finished the day with a win and took fifth place in the heavyweight (285) division to earn a trip to Otay Ranch High School this weekend. Martin Dowers took sixth place in the 115 pound class to earn a trip to the Masters.
Zach Lane (120) and Brian Coane (160) both won three bouts and valuable team points and both will be alternates at the Masters.
When a lot of talent gets a lot of coaching and a lot of conditioning and a lot of valuable experience during the season, the result is a CIF championship.
Ramona has won four CIF Championships under the tutelage of Steve Koch and has come in second six times.
“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”—