NBL wrestling: Is this the year of the Wildcats?


Returning six North Bay League finalists and facing a tough tournament slate, Ukiah could end recent dominance in wrestling by Rancho Cotate and Montgomery.

NBL matches begin in January following two months of practice and often weekly tournaments.

The league’s top three teams each has several wrestlers among the North Coast Section’s best in their weight classes. Ukiah appears deepest and has impressed Empire opponents early in the season.

“Ukiah has a really good team this year. Ukiah is really strong,” Healdsburg coach Scott Weidemier said following his school’s duals tournament.

Defending league tournament champion Rancho Cotate — Montgomery won last year’s regular-season title — is also an experienced group in what should be another competitive NBL wrestling season.

“The NBL should be really solid this year. We love duals. Matching up is really fun,” said Rancho Cotate coach Ryan Lunsford, who takes over for his father, Ron Lunsford.

Cardinal Newman is a much-improved squad and Maria Carrillo will be competitive, though young after finishing third last season. Santa Rosa has turned out an impressive number of wrestlers, a good sign for any program. Elsie Allen is traditionally tough. Piner is rebuilding.

If this is Ukiah’s year, the Wildcats need to give returning league champ Chris Berg, at 160 pounds this season, some company at the top.

“This is the best team I’ve had here,” said Ukiah co-coach Basin Herbertson, who shares duties with Jerry Aikman. “A league title is always the objective. It’s been awhile.”

Will Laster, the one Ukiah wrestler to reach the California state tournament last season, is back at 215 pounds. Laster could top the section in his weight class.

“We’re expecting him to go back. He was just a little star-struck by the competition. This year’s he’s got more resolution,” Herbertson said.
Wrestling at 170 pounds, Ben Brooks is another NCS contender.

“When he’s on the mat competing, he’s on. He’s ready to wrestle,” Herbertson said.

Oscar Delgado should be among the section’s better 135 pounders. Fellow seniors Tyler Shuss at 112 pounds, and Tomas Herbertson at189 pounds also look to improve on league runner-up finishes last season.

“The seniors are setting the tone of more intensity in practice than we have before,” Herbertson said.

To defend its title, Rancho Cotate will lean on returning standouts Vincent Luis, 112 pounds; John Lewis, 119 pounds; and Matt Rossiter, 171 pounds. The trio did well at the section meet, just missing the state finals. All seniors, they are back among the top NCS wrestlers this season.

“They’re the steady eddies. They’re looking really good already,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got a few other guys looking to make the big jump this year.”

Leading that group of underclassmen are Joey Clay — 130 pounds — Ty Brantley — 145 pounds — Brian Guerrero — 103 pounds — and Anthony Navarro — 171 pounds.

“We’re pretty deep this year,” Lunsford said.” We’ve got really good team chemistry. They wrestle for each other.”

Among the league’s expected section contenders are three from Montgomery: Edgar Robles, 112 pounds; David Moore, 160 pounds;— and Agustin Anguiano, 285 pounds.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.