Men’s Wrestling: Number One in Orange County


Karalyn Knupp

Juniors Joey Mora (left) and Aaron Nagao (right) prep for a practice match on campus.

Throughout the wrestling season, the team worked hard, faced challenges and overcame them. After winning CIF last year, they took third this year and finished the season as the number 1 public school in Orange County. They also placed 16th out of over 750 teams.

The results of CIF on Feb. 8-9 are: senior Ethan Gould won 1st, junior Aaron Nagao won 1st, Joey Mora won 2nd, Elijah Holiday placed  3rd, Chris Calderon placed 3rd, Gannon McDonald earned 4th and Danny Cruz placed 4th.

Nagao started wrestling at around the age of 10-11 years old to aid in jujitsu. He describes this season as different in comparison to his past years. “I tried to have more fun this time and enjoy it. I had to realize it was just a game, just a sport, and I have to have fun with it.”

Nagao obtained the 126 pound California State wrestling title and feels happy about his season. “It is my first time in high school going undefeated. My goal was to win state, and I got that now after the last two games.”

Gould, whose father is a wrestling coach, started wrestling at the age of four then stopped until six years old. He has been wrestling consistently ever since he was around 13-14 years old and feels happy that the season is over and wouldn’t want to change anything.

Nagao describes his finals at state as his best match. He was against an opponent that he faced two times before at CIF finals as well as last year. “Each time I wrestled him, I widened the gap, but also, it got harder because I think we knew each other so well. It was tiring but I pushed through it. It was a really fun match.”

“The kid had beaten me twice before and then he didn’t score a point on me. It was 11-0 and then I pinned him so I was happy about that,” said Gould, regarding his 7-8 match at state, which he believes was his best match.

While Holiday feels happy the wrestlers are getting the recognition they deserve, he believes “the true success will come years later when they graduate college and begin a career” because  of the wrestlers’ efforts, they “will know how to work and then they will reap the rewards both financially and personally.”

Nagao’s greatest difficulty of the season was overcoming the tearing of his Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) and the uncertainty of when he would be able to return to wrestling. “The doctor said a couple months especially with surgery, but we got some injections in my knee and I had to take like a month and a half off…It was stressful, but I knew it would come together in the end if I just stuck with the plan that my couches had.”

Gould, who walks around at 145 pounds, describes cutting weight to be his biggest challenge. The wrestlers are able to determine what weight level they wish to be in based on where they find themselves to be the most successful. The process consists of the removal of water as it contains an extra pound, as well as a diet unique to each athlete.

In January, the wrestlers get a two pound allowance, which Gould waited for because he knew he could not make the 120s in weight. “The last 2 days before I don’t drink any water before, and I had been on a diet around 3 months before. I got my weight down so I walked around 132 so it was a 10 pound drop… once I once hit 122 I made the drop for a couple tournaments.”

“I think everything went well. Of course if I could have prevented that match where I hurt my knee I would have just gotten out of the dumb situation I put myself in that match, but other than that, I think everything for the most part was pretty good,” said Nagao.

Wrestling coach Christian Holiday explains that the wrestlers work hard throughout the entirety of the year. “Every day they battle in the room and then go to tournaments and we see where they need adjustments.”

Gould describes Nagao as the hardest worker on the team, which is why he won state. Furthermore, he said that the rest of the team works hard as well.“I’d have to run three days a week for 45 minutes in the morning around 4 miles at like 6 a.m. Kids will lose like 8-9 pounds at practice. Those are kids who sweat a lot like my friend Joey. Other kids will lose like 2 pounds just overall practicing. We don’t do anything else other than practice.”

“I don’t think anyone but wrestlers know how hard we work everyday and the gruesome practices we go through together. It’s like a brotherhood with us,” said Nagao.

Gould believes the journey impacts him more than his success.“The cutting weight aspect which gets people more mentally tough, thinking that your body can’t go anymore and lose more weight. And then you push your body more.”

Nagao feels as though his wrestling not only helps him get into college but as a person as well. “It helps me to work hard, and I put in the work. Just being a hard worker and enjoying things, trying to have fun with it instead of making it like a job.”

“The best part of wrestling is the daily process or the journey,” said Holiday.

With the success they already had, the team will continue to motivate and inspire each other to push their limits.