By John Philip Wyllie
The winter wrestling season is winding down, but it is not over, at least not for Bonita Vista’s Cesar Sandoval. Last weekend Sandoval, the Barons tough 112-lbs junior claimed a title at the county’s annual CIF tournament. This weekend he will move on to the Master’s Tournament, which will be held today and tomorrow at San Ysidro High School. A top-four finish there will punch his ticket to Bakersfield and the elite state competition that awaits next weekend. His coach, former Mexican Olympic wrestler, Gabe Ruz, believes Sandoval has what it takes to get there.
“Cesar has really dedicated himself this year. He is working up to his potential and I think he showed that at this tournament. He has a good balance in take downs, rides and pinning combinations and he is working that to his advantage.”
Another advantage Sandoval has is in his genes. His father was a state-level wrestling champion back in the 70s and his older brother laid the trail for him at Bonita Vista High. Taller than most of the wrestlers that he faces in his 112-lbsweight class, Sandoval has learned how to use leverage to his advantage.
“Cesar has a real good shot at making it to the state competition and that would be one heck of a good accomplishment,” Ruz said.
“This past weekend I had to beat three guys to win the (CIF) title. I had already beaten the guy that I faced in finals (earlier this year), so I knew I had a good shot at it. He wrestled hard and he really wanted it, but I wanted it more. This weekend I will have to step it up another notch. (The competition) will be faster and harder, but I think I can do it,” Sandoval said still puffing from a three-mile conditioning run.
Sandoval will not be heading to the Master’s Tournament alone. He will be joined by freshman teammate Cody Lopez, who finished second in CIF in his 189-pound weight class.
“This is the first year that Cody has wrestled and as a freshman he has shown absolutely great potential,” Ruz said. “It is really unusual for somebody who has never wrestled before to finish second in a tournament like that. Cesar and Cody were our main stars of last week’s tournament, but several other guys qualified for the Master’s as well: Jeff Breton (103 lbs.), Juan Diaz (130 lbs.), Matt Periola (160 lbs.) and Curtis Smith (285 lbs.).
This season the Barons captured a league title and finished sixth in the county in Division II wrestling. They might have done somewhat better were it not for a couple of unfortunate turns. Next season, Ruz will have all but four of his wrestlers returning. With a feeder program now established for wrestlers coming up from the junior high he is more optimistic than ever about the future.