COACH: Virgil Canseco, first season
LAST YEAR: 2-4 Western Athletic Conference (fourth)
KEY RETURNERS: Sean DeOcampo (106 pounds), Jordan Canseco (120), Daniel Cota (126), Manuel Cruz (132), Francisco Plascencia (195)
KEY LOSSES: Joey Howard (145)
KEY ADDITIONS: Adrian Luna (106)
It's been a while since Patterson's contingent of wrestlers has been relevant on the high school scene. First-year coach Virgil Canseco is out to help change that.
There's no easy way to do it. You don't snap your fingers and become a grappler on the regional radar. Instead you work your fingers to the bone.
"The biggest challenge is making everyone trust in their abilities and go out and perform," Canseco said. "You can have all the technique in the world, but if you don't have the tools inside of you to go out and grind, it doesn't matter."
With powerhouse Los Banos High sharing the Western Athletic Conference, Canseco knows the best thing for his athletes to do is attempt to make progress.
The Tigers come into the 2013-14 season with a solid turnout for their team, and among that group are plenty of talented wrestlers putting in work to make Patterson more of a factor in the WAC.
Led by a trio of Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament qualifiers — including senior Jordan Canseco (120 pounds), and two-time Masters qualifiers junior Daniel Cota (126) and senior Manuel Cruz (132) — Patterson will have a shot to improve on last season's 2-4 league mark.
"We need (the section qualifiers) to drill hard and wrestle hard at practice to not only get better, but more importantly, make the team better," Virgil Canseco said. "Steel sharpens steel and the better their workout partners are the better they will become."
The Tigers will also lean on sophomore Sean DeOcampo (106) and Francisco Plascencia (195), a junior who narrowly missed advancing to Masters as a sophomore when he dropped his fifth-place match at the SJS Division IV tournament.
One of Patterson's biggest goals this season is to increase its number of athletes who advance to the Masters tournament and add that sort of experience to the growing program.
"The three returning Masters qualifiers all have chips on their shoulders and understand what it takes to get to that next level," Virgil Canseco said. "We also have some other guys who are borderline Masters qualifiers themselves, so it's a good thing to have. They are out to prove something."
As the Tigers get back to work, the coach said the team feels the loss of the senior athletes who graduated in June — especially Masters tournament qualifier Joey Howard (145). A surge of new talent, however, including freshman Adrian Luna (106), gives him a boost of confidence entering the season.
"The difference between wrestling and other sports is that I don't make the decisions as far as who makes the varsity team," Virgil Canseco said. "The wrestlers earn their own spot, so the decision is simple. You win your spot, you wrestle, regardless of what grade you’re in."
Los Banos is again expected to be the frontrunner in the conference, which also includes Central Catholic of Modesto, Central Valley of Ceres, Ceres, Livingston and Pacheco of Los Banos.
Virgil Canseco said taking on top teams is an opportunity, not a burden, and it shows his wrestlers how high the bar is set.
"We have the pieces to compete for a WAC title, but for that to happen everyone needs to step up, not just one or two guys," Virgil Canseco said. "We are very solid at different weight classes, and the team needs to trust in the things we work on in practice and execute them on the mat."
The Tigers will kick off the season Saturday, Dec. 7, at the McNair High School Invitational in Stockton.
Nine Patterson JV wrestlers placed in the top three in their weight classes Friday, Nov. 29, at the Central Valley High School Tournament in Ceres.
Luna (106), Tony Halcon (132), Jerome Crockett (152), Keith Gordon (152), Michael Boschi (160) and Simon Perez (170) each made their mark at the event, notching first-place finishes for Patterson.
Steve Rincon earned a second-place finish in the 120-pound weight class, and Aiden Fredrickson took second at 126 for the Tigers.
Patterson's Enrique Romeo took third overall at 138 pounds.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.