Rancho Cotate, Montgomery Lead NBL Wrestling

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

King of the mat in North Bay League dual meet competition should be decided when Montgomery and Rancho Cotate match up in the final week.

Montgomery's Edgar Robles (Press Democrat photo).

While both teams are undefeated with just two league matches remaining, Rancho Cotate looks particularly formidable and the Vikings are young in varsity experience.

“We’re definitely looking forward to that. You’ve still got to go out on the mat and wrestle,” said Rancho Cotate coach Ryan Lunsford.

First for Montgomery is Ukiah. The Wildcats will be hungry after falling to Maria Carrillo in a tight match Wednesday leaving the pair tied for third.

“Those are the two big matches. Ukiah is our first big step. Rancho is definitely the team to beat,” said Montgomery coach Alex Duerr.

The league’s top two teams compete in the 10-team North Coast Section dual meet finals. Montgomery won last year’s regular season title. Rancho Cotate won the league tournament.

The NBL, North Coast Section and CIF championships follow the dual meet finals.

Competition in the NBL is even more rugged this season as many of the best wrestlers on the top four teams aim to qualify again for the section finals with hopes of moving onto the state tournament.

“All of us are operating at a higher level than last year,” said Ukiah coach Basin Herbertson.

Standing apart, though, is Rancho Cotate with depth and experience. The Cougars have won league meets by wide margins and are coming off a victory in the Albany tournament, topping a field of 53 teams.

“We have a lot of guys that are getting better every day,” Lunsford said. “We had a lot of matches turn our way in the third period.”

Leading the Cougars are a duo ranked among the section’s best with Joey Clay, No. 8 NCS at 125 pounds and Matt Rossiter No. 6 NCS/No. 20 state for 189 pounds. Also poised to reach the section finals are Brian Gurrero at 105 pounds, Vincent Luis at 112 pounds, Jon Lewis at 121 pounds, Ty Brantley at 147 pounds, and Anthony Navarro at 173 pounds.

Hard work in training and at tournaments also is paying off for Montgomery. Among the Vikings standouts are Spencer Owen, ranked No. 5 in NCS, Edgar Robles at 119 pounds, and Davey Moore at 160 pounds.

“We’re a young team with a lot of new varsity wrestlers this year. It’s been coming along,” Duerr said.

Bouncing back from a rough match with Rancho Cotate two weeks ago, Maria Carrillo looked good in coming from behind to defeat Ukiah.

Leading the Pumas are Zach Forgy at 171 pounds, Sam Clarke at 140 pounds, Sam Tonascia, at 145 pounds, Nathan Edelstein at 215 pounds and Sage Ritchie coming on at 189 pounds.

“They’re not highlight guys. But they’ll be there at the sectionals,’ said Maria Carrillo coach Tim Burce.

Returning six league finalists, Ukiah still could win the league tournament and send a handful of wrestlers to the section finals.

“We’re still going to aim for winning the NBL championships. We’ve got a good tournament team,” Herbertson said.

A trio of the section’s best leads the Wildcats: Will Laster, No. 2 NCS/No. 20 state at 215 pounds; Thomas Herbertson, No. 5 NCS/No.38 state; Tyler Shuss, No. 7 NCS. The other section hopefuls are: Oscar Delgado, 130 pounds; Chris Berg, 152 pounds; Ben Brooks, 162 pounds.

A close match Santa Rosa won over Cardinal Newman showed two teams that continue to show improvement.

Piner is young and gaining experience. Elsie Allen, with the most trouble filling weight classes, is working on minimizing pins and competing on the mat.