Lopez likes direction wrestling program is headed
With a state wrestler coming back to lead the team and a large football turnout, South Tahoe High’s wrestling program is poised for a breakthrough year.
Senior Ryan Davis, who finished fifth at zone last year as an individual, is back to headline the returning talent. He, along with then senior Nick Alexander, were the only two Viking wrestlers to make state.
The team finished fourth out of seven teams in the 4A Northern Region’s Sierra League at 3-3 and went 10-16 overall.
That was a big improvement for a program that, the year before, was second to last in league with only two wins despite a 10-13 record overall.
And with a bigger turnout this year and some key returners, the Viking program is looking up.
“Jim (Kruk) and I have the best team since we’ve been back,” said 20-year head coach Jack Lopez. “It is the most experienced team.”
Lopez began as South Tahoe’s first wrestling coach in 1975. He stopped coaching in ’92 but came back again in 2001. For about as long as Lopez has been coaching South Tahoe, Kruk has been there to help him along.
The Vikings may have their best state contenders in Davis, 275-pound senior David Vasquez and 152-pound senior Kyler Crouse.
Davis lost his first match against Douglas, the defending 4A Northern Regional champion, last Wednesday. But he lasted three periods before giving up the pin.
Vasquez pinned his opponent with :00 on the clock in the first period, and Crouse lost by a 9-3 point margin after going three full periods.
Lopez expects a lot from these three wrestlers, and he makes these feelings known to all.
Two other wrestlers showing promise are 112-pounder Rusty Faulkner and freshman Garret Gibb in the 103s.
Gibb took his first varsity match by points and Faulkner earned the pin late in the second period.
While those five wrestlers make up the grit of the Viking lineup, 215-pounder J.P. Foster and 125-pound sophomore Nick Naccarato are also making an impression with Lopez.
Naccarato pinned his first opponent in the second period and Foster lost a four-point decision.
“Remarkable is that we had 15 football players come out. That’s only going to help both programs,” Lopez said.
Lopez added that of the 32 wrestlers who came out for the team, the 29 who remain are dedicated and determined. Of the 30 who came out last year, about 10 dropped immediately.
Now, with a larger number, they can compete in frosh/soph tournaments, which should further boost the varsity program in years to come.
In addition to Kruk, Doug Watenpool is a new assistant coach this year.
Watenpool competes with the bigger wrestlers, which Lopez said is a key teaching tool.
“He does what (Jim and I) can not do anymore,” said the 58-year-old Lopez. “If you don’t wrestle with them, it catches up with you.”
Also helping out with the team is John, a resource officer with the school system whose last name appears to have escaped just about everybody with the wrestling program.
The team has a packed schedule, despite only six league duals. More and more of their events, Lopez said, are nonconference duals with schools in California.
The Vikings face Truckee today at 4 p.m.
“We’re not a barn-burner, kick-(butt) team, but we’re going to better than we have been in a few years … Who knows, maybe we’ve turned the corner on this,” Lopez said.
oach: Jack Lopez, 20th year at South Tahoe, 35th overall
Last year: Fourth out of seven teams in the 4A Sierra League at 3-3, and 10-16 overall. Eleventh out of 14 teams at zone
Key returners: Ryan Davis, David Vasquez, Tyler Crouse
Key to success: Working hard, making state
Opener: Lost Dec. 4 to Douglas 42-27. Next home match today at 4 p.m. against Truckee.
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