It was 25 years ago that a streak began at Patterson High that will go down as one of the most dominating in the annals of Central Valley small-school sports.
The year was 1983, and the PHS wrestling team was one to be reckoned with. Beginning that season (1982-83), the Tigers swept to six consecutive Trans-Valley League championships and at one point compiled 54-straight dual meet victories.
Fifty-four — that’s not a misprint. In fact, over a 10-year period, the local matmen racked up a dual meet record of 161-16-1 under the tutelage of head coach Mike Worley. They were 75-4-1 in the TVL over those same 10 years, and the Tigers also picked up numerous tournament titles, at one point winning 12 consecutive tourney championships over a span of three-plus seasons.
Contacted this week, Worley recalled fond memories of those golden years. He coached dozens of league champs, plenty of whom went on to section competion and some who were state meet qualifiers as well. Obviously, he wouldn’t want to point out his top wrestler, so I didn’t ask him that question.
“It was a group effort,” Worley did say. He mentioned “good kids” and dedicated assistant coaches over the 10-year period that concluded with the 1987-88 season.
“It takes discipline and commitment to be a good wrestler,” the retired teacher/coach noted. “The kids stepped it up for us,” getting good grades and being good citizens. “We didn’t have a lot of problems.”
Worley was a dedicated student body recruiter for his sport, often having squads so large (50 or more) that he had to split practices into two sessions. His JV teams, like the varsity, swept to league championship after championship, because he had the personnel to fill the weight classes, while other schools did not.
He remembers that his wrestlers of similar weight made each other better because they faced each other every day in practice. That was a key to the Tigers’ success.
“That, and they cared for each other,” Worley added. “That made it for me.”
It made it for PHS fans as well. The wrestling team frequently outdrew the basketball squads, several times packing the local gym.
One such occasion was Jan. 31, 1986. Rival Hughson, which had a solid wrestling program for years, came to town with a 12-1 record, having lost only to powerful Turlock, 28-27. The Tigers were 15-0 going into the dual meet but were sending mostly underclassmen to the mat against the Huskies’ senior-dominated team. The outcome was a 31-23 PHS win, and the fans nearly roared the roof off the gym.
The Tiger grapplers lost to Hughson 29-26 early in 1983 and didn’t drop a dual meet again until a 30-21 loss against Oak Ridge in the small-school dual meet finals in early 1986. During that time they won 54 straight meets.
Then came the 1986-87 season, when the veteran Tigers romped to a 23-0 record and won the section title with what might have been the strongest team in program history.
It was a thrilling time, and it made strong wrestling fans out of many of us who had not previously followed the sport.
But 25 years ago — hard to imagine that.
SPRING HAS ARRIVED
Pattersonites know spring has arrived when they hear “Turkey in the Straw” a few dozen times a day.
Back to the lesson for the day, this time giving you a better deal on the price of expensive gasoline.
This comes from an expert in the field.
- Purchase your gas early in the morning. Gas in underground tanks becomes denser at cooler temperatures and expands as the degrees rise. Thus, you get more fuel power when it is cooler.
- When using the squeeze trigger at the pump, set it on low speed. This minimizes the vapors created while you are pumping. All gas hoses have a vapor return, and at a faster rate of pumping, other liquid that goes into your tank turns to vapor, which is then sucked back into the underground tanks. That gives you less for your money.
- Will up when half empty (or half full). The more air in your tank (when the gas level is low), the more evaporation you have.
- Do not fill up when gas delivery trucks are present and loading fuel into underground tanks. That stirs up the underground gas, including dirt and other impurities that normally settle to the bottom.
FROM THE MAIL BAG
Mr. Swift: You long ago convinced readers that you are technologically and mechanically challenged (cell phones, computers, VCRs, drive-through restaurants, etc.). Are there other areas in which you find yourself totally deficient? — Curious
Dear Cur: Yes, there is another area: agriculture, which might sound odd because I’m a native of Iowa. I can distinguish between a sheep and a hog, and I know that John Deere equipment is green and yellow. But that’s about it.
But I’m told there’s hope. For instance, I recognized that the almond and apricot trees are blossoming at about the same time this year, an unusual occurrence. For me, it was a breakthrough.
AND FINALLY …
You’ve probably read about the discovery of a wolverine up near Truckee, an animal thought to be extinct in this part of the country.
And, recently, a bird was sighted that was believed to have been extinct for decades.
What’s next, maybe a chance sighting of Elvis? That would be exciting.
Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. His column appears weekly in this space.