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Warrior grapplers faring well despite partial team

Fallbrook High School’s wrestling team didn’t field a full slate of 14 competitors in either its December 16 dual meet or its December 18-19 tournament, but that didn’t prevent the Warriors from successful showings in both.

The December 16 non-league dual meet at home against El Camino saw the Warriors take a 42-37 victory despite forfeiting three matches and the corresponding 18 points due to not having wrestlers for those weight classes. In the Las Vegas Holiday

Classic December 18-19, the Warriors only took nine wrestlers and still placed 33rd among the 82 participating schools.

“To take nine guys and still place in the top half of the tournament as a team, that’s pretty impressive to me,” said Fallbrook coach Greg Wagaman. “I’m really happy with that.”

Injuries, illnesses, an academic ineligibility and delays in administrative clearances have limited participation in meets. Senior John McDonald, who was expected to be the Warriors’ 215-pound varsity wrestler, broke his leg in practice prior to the first meet and is not expected to wrestle at all during his final high school year.

The shortage of available wrestlers caused Wagaman to cancel Fallbrook’s participation in a December 5 tournament, so the Warriors opened their season against El Camino in the dual meet.

“We wrestled very well, I think,” Wagaman said.

Not only did Fallbrook win seven of the eleven matches actually contested, but all seven of those wins were by pin. The Wildcats’ seven wins included two by pin, one by major decision, and one by decision as well as the three forfeit victories.

One of El Camino’s decision wins was an 11-6 victory over Fallbrook freshman Andrew Navarro, who wrestled in the 103-pound class. In the Las Vegas Holiday Classic Navarro won his first two matches before losing two close matches.

Although the Las Vegas Holiday Classic has a standard double-elimination format for actual tournament placing, the tournament also includes a “hard luck tournament” on the second day for wrestlers who lost their first two matches. Fallbrook junior Kyle Mericle, who wrestled in the 215-pound division, was one of the participants in the consolation tournament and won all three of his second-day matches.

Jonathan Juarez, a Fallbrook High School senior who began wrestling as a sophomore, competed in the 135-pound weight class. He lost his first match before winning his next five, and a loss in the seventh round kept him from placing.

The Warriors were represented in the 140-pound class by junior Brandon Smith, who won his first two matches but incurred a concussion in his third match and pulled out of the tournament.

Ryan Torres, a junior in his second year of wrestling, was Fallbrook’s 130-pound grappler. Torres won his first two matches in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

Fallbrook’s 119-pounder was senior Hector Diaz, who lost his first match but won his next three.

“We won a lot of matches there,” Wagaman said. “We scored a lot of points.”

The Warriors’ next competition will be a dual meet January 7 at home against Rancho Bernardo. On January 8 and 9, the Warriors will travel to Orange Glen High School for the Jim Londos Memorial Wrestling Tournament.

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