by Sue Pascoe
Palisades High sent 14 wrestlers, one in each weight class, to the Regional meet at Pali on Saturday, Feb. 11. By 4 p.m., all had qualified to advance to City Sectionals at Roybal Learning Center on Feb. 17-18. The champion in each weight class at that meet will advance to the State championships in Bakersfield on March 3-4.
On Saturday, Palisades placed second behind San Fernando. “We wrestled well, but to be at San Fernando, we would have had to have been a little bit lucky,” said second-year head coach Steve Cifonelli, who has 38 athletes on the roster.
He pointed out that Ryan Couche (113 lbs.) was sick, but still qualified. “You’ll see a different Ryan at the Sectionals.”
Aaron Galef (120 lbs.), qualified even after losing 9-7, but then received a call from his doctor, who said that his finger, injured earlier in the week, was fractured and he needed to come in. “Aaron came back after his finger was set and said he was going to make it sectionals,” Cifonelli said. If a team is short a wrestler due to injury or illness, there are no substitutions, and the team has no chance for points in that weight class.
Senior Marcelo Mayo (152 lbs.) won his weight class, winning each match with a pin. Cifonelli expects him to do well at Sectionals and added, “He’s getting hot at the right time.” Mayo automatically qualifies for State this year by virtue of going last year.
Another automatic qualifier is junior Hamzah Al-Saudi (195 lbs.), who is ranked in the top 20 in the state. He won his weight class on Saturday with all pins. His plan for Sectionals: “I’m going in there and winning city with determination.”
The champion in the 170 lbs. weight class was junior Joseph Velado, who reached the top by pinning all his opponents.
Four freshmen made their mark at this meet. Lucas Gagne (106 lbs.) placed second, Tommy Kalili (132 lbs.) took fourth and Maximillan Palees (160 lbs.) took third. Immanual Newell (220 lbs.) advanced to the final match and took second. “The kid who beat him went to state last year,” Cifonelli said.
Sophomore Luke Hansen (182) has been injured most of the year, but won a wrestle-off with a teammate in order to compete at the regionals. After pinning two opponents, he took second place.
Junior Chance Chapman (145 lbs.) lost to Fremont’s Emmanuel Zapada, who is a two-time state qualifier. Most likely he’ll face him again at sectionals. “Now I know what he does and his moves and I’ll be able to capitalize on that,” said Chapman, a co-captain.
Jake Carpenter (138 lbs.) lost a close final match against San Fernandos’s Eric Rocha, and junior junior Jonathon Quaro (126 lbs.) also took second.
About co-captain Carlos Velado (285 lbs.), Cifonelli said: “Carlos had a bad first match and lost in overtime. He came back with a pin and a win, 10-1, to take third.”
Looking toward sectionals, Cifonelli said “If Aaron [Galef] can wrestle, it will be a three-horse race between Birmingham, San Fernando and us.”
Senior Kaila Osorio, the team’s sole female wrestler, who took second at city sectionals last year, has automatically qualified and is seeded fourth.