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Coach sees potential in Warrior wrestlers

Fallbrook High School’s wrestling team has won its first two dual meets, including the Avocado League opener at home January 8 against San Pasqual, despite a relative lack of experience on the team.

While new Fallbrook coach Greg Wagaman has previous coaching experience, including service as an assistant for the Warriors and a tenure as the San Marcos High School coach as well as his Fallbrook Wrestling Club tutelage, only five of the Warrior wrestlers were on the 2007-2008 varsity and two of those missed some or all of the season due to injuries.

Most of Wagaman’s matmen are new to the varsity level.

“It’s been a slow process, but they’re starting to pick it up,” Wagaman said.

All five of the returning varsity wrestlers are seniors. Brett Jones, David Lopez, and Jacob Albritton spent the full season on the mats.

Injuries limited Sean Foley to a sparse schedule, and knee surgery kept Stuart Reeder away from competition last year.

“We have some seniors, but we’re not loaded with them,” Wagaman said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

High school wrestling consists of 14 weight classes, and when the Warriors opened their season December 5-6 at the Carlsbad Invitational the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) conflict that weekend limited Fallbrook to nine grapplers.

The Warriors still finished in tenth place, taking first place in two of the weight classes. “I thought we did well,” Wagaman said.

Jones, who normally wrestles in the 119-pound division, moved up to the 125-pound weight but still won his class. Albritton won the 140-pound division.

“It was nice to get a start like that,” Wagaman said.

On December 11 the Warriors hosted El Camino in a non-league match and prevailed. “They did well,” Wagaman said.

Six Warrior wrestlers made their varsity debuts against the Wildcats, and three of those were victorious.

All three of those wrestlers were behind in points before overtaking their opposition.

“I was really happy about that. I thought it was going to be a little tougher,” Wagaman said.

The Warriors’ second tournament was the Reno Tournament of Champions, which included approximately 100 teams from 22 states.

Wagaman took 12 Fallbrook wrestlers to the tournament. “It was a good yardstick for them,” Wagaman said. “We won some matches there.”

Although no Warriors finished in the top eight, Albritton and Jones each won a match while Lopez won his first two matches in the 125-pound division before losing by one point during the tournament’s second day.

Jones lost in the first round to the eventual seventh-place finisher in the 119-pound class and lost his third match by two points.

“Somebody’s got to walk out of there with a loss,” Wagaman said. “It was a good experience for these guys.”

Serra High School hosted the first-ever Q Rumble (Serra’s nickname is the Conquistadors and they are sometimes called the Qs) January 9-10.

Fallbrook took 12 wrestlers and still placed sixth among the 27 teams.

“I was really happy with what we were able to do at the Q Rumble,” Wagaman said. “We picked up some good bonus points.”

Wrestlers earn three points for a decision but five for a technical fall and six for a pin. “That’s one of the things we’re really trying to stress this season,” Wagaman said.

Three Warriors reached the finals of the Q Rumble with Jones winning the 119-pound class. “He’s coming along,” Wagaman said.

Jones’ defeat over the Rancho Bernardo opponent in the finals gave him the championship for the tournament, but his goal this season is the state championship.

“119 is arguably one of the tougher classes in the state this year,” Wagaman said.

Lopez fell to a Westview opponent in the finals, but on his way through the 125-pound bracket he pinned the Mount Carmel wrestler who had been ranked second in the section.

“He wrestled some tough kids on his way to the final and beat them all,” Wagaman said.

Reeder reached the 171-pound finals before losing to a Rancho Bernardo grappler. “He pretty much beat everybody up on the way there,” Wagaman said.

Albritton lost in the semifinals but won the consolation final to take third place.

Other Warrior wrestlers didn’t reach the final rounds but collected bonus points.

“We pinned a lot of guys on the way,” Wagaman said. “We put them on their back and we kept them there.”

Fallbrook’s win over San Pasqual not only gave the Warriors a 1-0 record in league dual meets but also showed Wagaman that his wrestlers are improving.

“I think we did some things better,” he said. “San Pasqual is a young team, but they brought some really tough kids.”

Wagaman still saw room for improvement. “We still lost some matches we should have won,” he said. “Of particular concern was the number of pins we had against us.”

Wagaman, who wrestled while in high school in Iowa and spent some time on the Adams State (Colorado) wrestling team before injuries convinced him to focus on his diploma instead, took over the Fallbrook team from Roye Oliver, who accepted an offer as the assistant coach of California Baptist University.

Cal Baptist is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics affiliate and began its wrestling program this season.

Wagaman has also wrestled in club competition. His most recent match on the mats was in 1993 during the Southeast Military Championships in Jacksonville.

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