SRJC Wrestling: Bear Cubs primed for NorCal Regionals

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Things have a way of coming full circle at the junior college level.

Take Joe Guinn, an All-American wrestler at Santa Rosa JC who finished fourth in California as a heavyweight in 1982. One of his sons, Kevin, is now an assistant coach at SRJC and another, Bud, is wrestling there as a heavyweight.

Or how about Bill Borges? The El Molino coach wrestled under Jake Fitzpatrick at Piner in the early 1980s. Now Fitzpatrick is head coach at SRJC, where he works with two of Bill’s sons, Von and Blake.

Yes, wrestling can be a small world, though that world will get a little bigger this weekend when the Bear Cubs take the mat for the NorCal Regionals at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton. The festivities start at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Bud Guinn and Blake Borges represent two of SRJC’s best hopes of going to the state championships the following weekend at West Hills College in Lemoore. The top six in each weight class will advance, and Fitzpatrick is eyeing a strong team result as well.

“Our goal is to finish in the top four spots,” he said. “Realistically, we’re not going to be first or second, and maybe not third. Fresno, Sierra and Sacramento are all ranked higher in the state. So our goal is fourth, and to qualify as many wrestlers as possible. I think realistically we have a shot at six guys. Six out of 10 would be a pretty good day, and more than that would be great. Last year we had eight qualifiers, and that’s the most we’ve had in quite some time.”

Fitzpatrick, who has been at Santa Rosa JC since 1984, has reason to be optimistic. The 2012 Bear Cubs finished 10-3 in dual meets, went 3-1 in the Coast Conference (beating everyone but Fresno City College, the state’s dominant JuCo program) and finished fourth at the Northern California Duals at SRJC’s Haehl Pavilion in October.

The Bear Cubs also won the Coast Conference Tournament at Hayward on Nov. 17, but that result is a bit misleading because Fresno sent a partial squad; the State Dual Meet Championships were held the same day.

“We did not beat Fresno’s best team,” Fitzpatrick acknowledged. “They sent a lot of their second and third wrestlers. Fresno won the state title four of the last six years, and they finished second and third the two years they didn’t win. They’re by far the best team in the state, and we’re stuck in the same conference with them.”

Still, it was a strong conference tournament for SRJC. Borges (at 149 pounds), Windsor grad Andres Torres (125), Erik Figueroa (157) and Kaden Martin (165) all were crowned Coast Conference champions, and Guinn of Rancho Cotate, Otilio Carrillo (197) and Ashton Morales of Casa Grande (174) each finished in the top four.

Von Borges, who wrestled at El Molino like his brother, was second to Martin at 165 pounds, but will sit out the NorCals after fracturing his wrist. He was outfitted with a cast last week.

Torres didn’t begin the season looking like a champion. He competed at 112-119 pounds at Windsor, but came to SRJC as a 141-pounder after wrestling for a year at North Iowa Area Community College. Torres worked his way down to 133 and finally, by the Lassen Tournament in early November, to 125. He immediately served notice by defeating Lassen’s Dieuminse Dore, the state’s No. 3 wrestler at 125.

Fitzpatrick said he has not fully updated his records for the season, but he believes Torres was 10-8 at the higher weights. He’s more like 8-1 or 9-1 at his lighter, more natural level.

In the most recent rankings at caccwrestling.com, an independent web site, Guinn (who is nursing a shoulder separation) came in at No. 6 in the state and Blake Borges at No. 7. Torres, Figueroa and Carrillo all received honorable mention.

Fitzpatrick’s wrestlers have come a long way this year — both on the mat and in coalescing as a team. That isn’t always easy for young men who were opponents just a year or two earlier.

“That’s one of our goals as coaches every year, to mold a group of individuals who are often from rival schools — like El Molino and Windsor tend to be good opponents,” Fitzpatrick said. “They still talk about ‘my high school.’ … They have a lot of rivalries from their competitive days, but it’s more joking than anything. They check their smart phones during football games on Friday night and poke each other.”

Bud Guinn is probably ready for it. His Rancho Cotate Cougars play for the North Coast Section Division 2 football championship tonight, and should finish about 12 hours before SRJC wrestling begins its NorCal quest.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.