What’s certainly been a memorable, groundbreaking, record-setting wrestling season around the Coachella Valley continues on for at least one more weekend, maybe two.
Friday and Saturday, 22 boys from seven high schools in the valley will hit the mats for the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet held at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, nearly doubling the number of qualifiers from a year ago.
In total, 12 team CIF champions were crowned this month at the CIF duals and the CIF individuals meets, but Victor Valley and Northview’s wrestling squads won titles in both competitions. Of the 10 teams honored in all of Southern California, two hail from the desert.
Put together the individual success, Shadow Hills’ and Palm Desert’s CIF titles and three local girls competing in the CIF State Wrestling Championships in Visalia this weekend, Shadow Hills head coach Nick Meade certainly thinks the entire wrestling community in the valley is at its peak.
“As far as I know, this is the most the valley has sent (to the Masters Meet) in the history of the desert,” said Meade, who coached as an assistant at La Quinta before his stint with the Knights. “For years, the DVL and the De Anza League were looked down up in the wrestling community for not being tough and not producing champions, but I’ve made sure to remind our guys that ‘Yes, we are very good. Look at the groundbreaking numbers we have.’ “
Last weekend, the valley produced six individual CIF champions, including three from Palm Desert (Billy Weaver, Brandon Claiborne and Anthony Mantanona), two from La Quinta (Joel Avila and Joseph Valdez) and Rancho Mirage’s Devon Purdy.
This weekend in Ontario, the top five in each weight class qualify for next weekend’s state meet in Bakersfield, and should just all six champions advance, it would be a sizable improvement on the four from a year ago.
And now, when the 22 boys hit the mats, their cheer sections will have grown monumentally from the league seasons that finished up just a month ago.
Just last weekend, Meade said he and his boys were cheering and screaming for Rattler Devon Purdy in his championship match where he prevailed, and that type of inter-team bonding and support is what has and will continue to allow the valley to thrive, he added.
This week, the Knights have hosted wrestlers from Desert Mirage, Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City as they all prepare for this weekend, and Meade has no problem lending his school’s facilities and his coaches’ expertise to help others thrive.
“I let them know that during the season, you’re our opponents. Not our enemies, but our opponents,” Meade said. “But when we step into the postseason, we’re one big family.
“And when he (Devon Purdy) won, we accepted that success as a part of our own because we love to see the desert succeed. We’re going to go together and cheer each other on, and we’re going to continue to sit with each other at Masters and hopefully at state.”
Boys CIF Southern Section Masters Meet
When: Feb. 26-27
Where: Citizens Business Bank Arena (Ontario)
Gabriel Felix, Shadow Hills, sophomore
Isaiah Hinojosa, Shadow Hills, senior
Chase Overgaag, Palm Desert, junior
Joel Avila, La Quinta, senior
Eric Santana, Palm Desert, sophomore
Trevor Dalskov, Palm Desert, senior
Jacob Tessandore, Shadow Hills, junior
Devon Purdy, Rancho Mirage, senior
Reece Galvan, Palm Desert, senior
Billy Weaver, Palm Desert, senior
Zaid Ramirez, Rancho Mirage (alternate)
Troy Mantanona, Palm Desert, freshman
Jacob Arellano, La Quinta, senior
Joseph Valdez, La Quinta, senior
Brandon Claiborne, Palm Desert, senior
Tommy Rojas, Shadow Hills, junior
Jacob Souza, La Quinta (alternate)
Anthony Mantanona, Palm Desert, junior
Cameron Van Dyke, Palm Desert (alternate)
Daniel Morales, Cathedral City, junior
Carlos Diaz, Coachella Valley, senior
Jesus Angel, Desert Mirage, senior
Jesus Ruiz, Coachella Valley, senior
Gabe Herrera, Palm Desert, senior
Travis O’Brien, Rancho Mirage, junior
Girls CIF State Wrestling Championships
When: Feb. 26-27
Where: Visalia Convention Center (Visalia)
Monica Kezis, Rancho Mirage, junior
Destiny Salinas, Coachella Valley, junior
Caitlin Cardenas, Shadow Hills, sophomore