COACH: Lee Scoles, seventh season
LAST YEAR: 3-3 Western Athletic Conference (fourth place)
KEY RETURNERS: Josh Roberts (112 pounds), Jordan Canseco (120), Daniel Cota (126), Manuel Cruz (133), Joey Howard (140), Daniel Linares (145), Adam Melo (152), Eloa Chadwick (170), Garrett Fowler (180), Andrew Arroyo (195), Gary Abundis (heavyweight)
KEY LOSSES: Josh Campo (126), Dallas Hernandez (195), Joe Neal-Clark (heavyweight)
TOP NEWCOMERS: Shawn DeOcampo (106), Joseph Ruelas (145), Austin Lewis (152)
With the first two weeks of official practice in the books, Patterson High wrestling coach Lee Scoles said his team has two key strengths in its favor: experience and confidence.
“I’m optimistic about our experience level,” Scoles said. “A lot of these kids were young varsity starters a season ago. Now, with one more year of varsity competition under their belts and several of the weight classes more established, I think that we will be more mature, better wrestlers.”
In 2011-12, Patterson finished 3-3 in league dual meets, enough for fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference. This year, most of that team is back and aiming higher.
“We’ve got a good mixture of youth and experience,” Scoles said. “We go into the season with expectations to beat everyone we wrestle. If we lose, then we want to continue to improve and ask why we lost. We don’t preach trying to get better. We give you the tools and the support to be better.”
The Tigers bonded during the summer, Scoles said, getting to know both wrestling strategies and their teammates.
“Most of the team worked out throughout the summertime, and the returners worked hard over the summer and came back in good shape,” he said. “We feel we can hit the ground running.”
As the team gets back to work, Scoles said the team feels the loss of the senior athletes who graduated in June — Josh Campo (126 pounds), Joe Neal-Clark (heavyweight) and Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament qualifier Dallas Hernandez (195). A surge of returning talent, however, gives him a boost of confidence entering the season.
“We’ve lost some talent, but we’re still balanced in terms of weight classes,” Scoles said.
The coach will lean on 2012 sectional qualifiers Daniel Cota (126), a sophomore, and Manuel Cruz (133), a junior, as well as Jordan Canseco (120), a junior who narrowly missed advancing to Masters as a sophomore when he dropped his fifth-place match at the SJS Division IV tournament. Wrestlers in the top five in their weight classes competed again at Masters in Stockton.
Also contributing to the Tigers’ store of experience are returning grapplers Josh Roberts (junior, 112), Daniel Linares (junior, 145), Eloa Chadwick (sophomore, 170) and Joey Howard (senior, 140), a co-captain in 2011-12 whose junior season was shortened by a broken bone in his leg.
“I’m confident that we will have kids who are capable of qualifying for the (California Interscholastic Federation) State Meet,” Scoles said.
Sophomore Austin Lewis (152), who wrestled at the JV level a season ago and freshman newcomer Shawn DeOcampo (106) will both vie for varsity spots.
The Tigers have about 60 wrestlers working out under the direction of Scoles and his assistant coaches, including Juan Gonzalez, George Miranda, Evan Schut, Gary Scoles, Megan Valentine, Elias Pasillas and J.J. Gonzalez.
“A quality program starts with quality coaches,” Scoles said. “We have people in place to support the kids. We have so many good parents who also help. It’s a recipe for success.”
Scoles is aiming for a strong WAC finish. He also wants to continue challenging perennial wrestling stalwarts Los Banos High and Central Catholic High of Modesto.
“Throughout the season, we’ll spend a lot of time preaching what it takes to be successful,” Scoles said. “These kids emphasize the value of hard work and have helped to restore a positive future to our program. Everyone has bought into the philosophy that if you never quit, you always have a chance to succeed.”
The Tigers will kick off the season with a home dual meet Tuesday, Nov. 27, against Modesto Christian High.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.