Aztecs have record five wrestlers in action at Masters Meet

Aztecs have record five wrestlers in action at Masters Meet

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Aztecs have record five wrestlers in action at Masters Meet

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PALM DESERT

According to Palm Desert High School wrestling coach Tom Lee, this year’s group achieved something no other Aztecs’ squad had before.

For the first time, Palm Desert is sending five wrestlers to the CIF-Southern Section Masters Championship on Friday and Saturday, three recently crowned CIF Divisional champions.

One of them, senior Matt Holm, is also making another prediction.

(Photos: Valley wrestlers prepare for Masters Tournament)

“I see that everyone moving onto Masters is going to state. Everyone’s got a shot,” said Holm, a four-year year-round competitor who captured top honors at the Coastal Division championship in the 152-pound division and was selected Upper Weight MVP. “We really came together as a team and the competition between each other pushed us to do the best. It pushed us over the top.”

And, another first for this group was a runner-up finish in the team standings at last weekend’s event at Westminster High School.

With that behind them, this group looks toward a top-nine individual placement to gain a berth to next weekend’s state finals in Bakersfield.

Lee said the desert could send a record number to the all-state championships from those 12 who represent four schools: Palm Desert, La Quinta, Shadow Hills and Desert Mirage.

“We could have five from Palm Desert and Roy (Galvan) from La Quinta and other guys do well,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to see the whole valley and we could have a record number at the state.”

That includes two other CIF champs from the Aztecs — senior Isai Serrano at 182 and freshman Anthony Mantanona at 132.

“Matt and Isai are seniors and have been the leaders of this program,” said Lee. “They bring hard work and dedication, getting that good work ethic across. And Anthony, he comes in with a lot of experience as a freshman. He did youth wrestling for about 10 years. He was expected to do well and lived up to the expectations.”

Holm improved to 33-7 this year and returns to Masters. Lee says he’s physically stronger and a true match manager.

“He knows where he’s at in a match and sets up a wrestler so he can come out ahead,” said Lee. “He can gauge another wrestler and doesn’t go outside his comfort zone, knowing he can grind it out.”

Holm was quick to point out that he did whatever it took to make a return trip, but yearned for that that CIF top spot since placing third last year.

“I was a little nervous at first, but still the effort for wanting it was worth it,” said Holm. “I was overweight on the second day and I really sucked it up. I ran and ran and ran. I counted my sprints. I told myself I was gonna make it.”

Serrrano captured 182-pound honors and goes about his strategy in another way thanks to his 6-1 frame. His key is height, strength and leverage.

“He’s got a few inches on most of his opponents with those long arms,” said Lee. “And just when they think they’re avoiding the pin, he can hit the moves. He can reach anywhere and get back in control.”

For the young Mantanona, it’s all about technique and speed. He’s won by pin 33 times this season.

“He’s very well versed in technique” said Lee. “He knows a lot and he’s quick. He can dominate most wrestlers and his technique is so vast.”

Two other Aztecs earning their first trip to Masters include Billy Weaver, who was CIF runner- up in the 126-pound class and Payton Hammer who took third in CIF at 170.

Lee said both have the opportunity to gain that coveted state bid.

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