Expectations are a bit loftier for the 2019-20 Mountain Empire High School wrestling team, and with good reason, according to head coach Justin Reed.
“We have 21 kids on the team this season,” said Reed, who is coaching his second season with the team. “Last year we had only six kids — five boys and one girl. We have three girls and 18 boys this season.”
Reed said he is looking for commitment and dedication from his team this season — key elements that could lead to a Citrus League championship.
So far, the numbers have started to add up to some positive results.
The team opened the season by competing in the Carlsbad Invitational on Nov. 23, then competed in the 49th annual El Cajon Invitational Dec. 13-14 at San Ysidro High School.
Heavyweight Dillynn MccMillan represented the Red Hawks on the awards stand with an eighth-place medal at the 50-team ECI tournament.
Overall, Mountain Empire had 13 wrestlers compete at the San Diego Section’s longest-running wrestling invitational.
McMillan finished 4-3 in seven matches on the mat with three pins to lead the backcountry contingent.
Hector Gutierrez Lemus advanced to the fifth consolation round in his 160-pound weight class while teammates Larry Clark (170 pounds) and Zayne Higuera (195 pounds) both advanced to the fourth consolation round.
Eight other Mountain Empire wrestlers advanced to third consolation round matches: Coltin Reagan (106 pounds), Nicholas Rose (132 pounds), Brian Koppa (138 pounds), Aiden Hamada (145 pounds), Damian Fisher (152 pounds), Abraham Penuelas (220 pounds), Chaz Ennis (220 pounds) and A.J. Hardison (285 pounds).
Nathan Hill (182 pounds) advanced as far as the second consolation round.
The Red Hawks most recently competed at the Hilltop varsity dual tournament on Jan. 4 to face off the 2020 portion of their schedule.
Clark earned a bronze medal in his 170-pound weight class with a 3-2 record. He previously captured first place in his weight class at junior varsity tournaments at Granite Hills and Montgomery high schools.
Mountain Empire paired up against five teams in the dual format tournament: Eastlake, San Ysidro, Mira Mesa, Central Union and Otay Ranch high schools.
Koppa, Hamada and Clark won by a first-period pins while Hardison won by a second-period pin to provide individual highlights for the Red Hawks in their final-round match-up against Otay Ranch — a 48-30 loss.
Mountain Empire is back on the tournament trail Jan. 11 at the Jim Londos Memorial Invitational in Escondido.
The Red Hawks start their league schedule Jan. 16 at Guajome Park. Other league dual meets are against Calipatria, Army-Navy Academy and newcomer Calexico Mission School.
The San Diego Section girls divisional tournaments are schedule Feb. 8 at Olympian (Division I) and Santana (Division II) high schools, followed by the inaugural San Diego Section Masters girls state qualifying tournament Feb. 14 at Steele Canyon High School.
Mountain Empire will compete at the San Diego Section Division IV boys championship tournament Feb. 15 at Army-Navy Academy. The San Diego Masters boys state qualifying tournament is scheduled Feb. 21-22 at Southwest El Centro High School.
The three-day California state championship tournament (both genders) is slated Feb. 27-29 in Bakersfield.
Photo Gallery by Phillip Brents
Hilltop Varsity Duals Scoreboard
Jan. 4 at Hilltop High School
Patrick Henry 67, Mt. Carmel 10
Palo Verde 48, Otay Ranch 36
Eastlake 55, Mountain Empire 3
San Ysidro 30, Central Union 28
Mt. Carmel 42, Hilltop 30
Patrick Henry 66, Otay Ranch 9
Mira Mesa 59, Eastlake 6
San Ysidro 32, Mountain Empire 30
Mt. Carmel 66, Palo Verde 6
Patrick Henry 59, Hilltop 18
Eastlake 60, Central Union 0
Mira Mesa 84, Mountain Empire 0
Mt. Carmel 48, Otay Ranch 28
Hilltop 43, Palo Verde 42
Eastlake 60, San Ysidro 9
Mira Mesa 78, Central Union 36
Patrick Henry 66, Palo Verde 12
Hilltop 37, Otay Ranch 36
Central Union defeated Mountain Empire
Mira Mesa 81, San Ysidro 0
Mira Mesa 52, Patrick Henry 21
Eastlake 48, Mt. Carmel 24
San Ysidro 42, Hilltop 24
Palo Verde 48, Central Union 30
Otay Ranch 48, Mountain Empire 30
Pool A: Patrick Henry 4-0, Mt. Carmel 3-1, Hilltop 2-2, Palo Verde 1-3, Otay Ranch 0-4
Pool B: Mira Mesa 4-0, Eastlake 3-1, San Ysidro 2-2, Central Union 1-3, Mountain Empire 0-4
Champion: Mira Mesa
Runner-up: Patrick Henry
Third place: Eastlake
Fourth place: Mt. Carmel
Boys of Steele gain experience on the mat, win medals
The 2019-20 high school wrestling season is chock full of tournaments nearly every weekend at all levels in both gender divisions.
The focus is on gaining experience — and confidence — while experiencing valuable team-building in the process.
The future of the Steele Canyon High School boys wrestling team was showcased at the 18th annual Hilltop frosh/soph dual tournament Dec. 28 in Chula Vista.
The Cougars found success on the mat with a limited lineup by recording 24 wins against six losses in individual matches en route to recording a fifth-place finish among the 10 participating teams.
“We brought six guys and all six medaled,” said Steele Canyon coach John Mendoza, whose team finished with a 3-2 record in the dual standings. “We got a lot farther than we thought. It was an outstanding effort by the group.”
Hudson Beamon won a gold medal in his 152-pound weight class while silver medalists included Giajomo Lalicaca (115 pounds), Jacob Jimenez (122 pounds), Adam Rochford (197) and Sergio Romero (heavyweight).
Freshman Brayden Mount earned a bronze medal in his 140-pound weight class with a pin in his final match.
Steele Canyon 24, Grossmont 24
Eastlake 52, Mira Mesa A 18
Torrey Pines/Westview 48, Castle Park 15
Vista defeated Mira Mesa B
Vista 52, Steele Canyon 18
Eastlake 57, Olympian 21
Mira Mesa A 57, Torrey Pines/Westview 12
Hilltop defeated Mira Mesa B
Vista 52, Hilltop 12
Eastlake 66, Castle Park 6
Mira Mesa A 54, Olympian 18
Grossmont defeated Mira Mesa B
Grossmont 48, Hilltop 36
Eastlake 59, Torrey Pines/Westview 23
Olympian 45, Castle Park 12
Steele Canyon defeated Mira Mesa B
Vista 48, Grossmont 30
Hilltop 40, Steele Canyon 31
Mira Mesa A 18, Castle Park 12
Olympian 30, Torrey Pines/Westview 30
First place: Eastlake 60, Vista 18
Third place: Mira Mesa A 60, Grossmont 18
Fifth place: Steele Canyon 21, Olympian 6
Seventh place: Hilltop 42, Torrey Pines/Westview 24
Ninth place: Mira Mesa B 24, Castle Park 18