By Steve Ramirez
The goal for the Northview High School wrestling team is no different than it’s been for the past decade. And it has nothing do with the Vikings winning another Valle Vista League title, a CIF-Southern Section divisional championship and nearly unmatched success at the CIF State championships. For Northview wrestlers, it’s all about being the best they can be, and improving from day to day, tournament to tournament and match to match.
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It’s what coach David Ochoa has preached from day one and has been the guide to Northview becoming one of the most-recognized high school teams in the state.
The goal has always been the same, except for one season during the mid 1990s.
“We have developed a tradition here,” Ochoa said. “But did we ever stop and write it down and design it? I actually kind of did one time. It was about 1994 or ’95, right before we had that big year (in 1998). We do a team yearbook every year and I write in the back what our team goals are for the next year, and it said something like, `10 guys to CIF, five CIF placers, two state qualifiers.’
“It was something that I thought we could do. My assistant at the time just laughed. He wasn’t my assistant anymore after that. But that’s when I first wrote something down like that, and probably the only time, because basically our goal is just to do the best we can.”
And for the most part that’s been pretty good.
the Vikings have had very few peers in the Southern Section, winning seven divisional team titles since 1998, backed by 33 individual champions. Northview has also had 18 competitors place at the state meet over the past decade, with two individual champions – Chris Lopez at 171 pounds in 2000 and Shad Manigault at 140 in 2006.
It’s no different this season as Northview, which will send its best to the 5 Counties tournament at Fountain Valley High this weekend, looks to 2008 state qualifiers Jacob Delgado (112) Steven Salinas (119), Frank Martinez (140) and Matt Cruz (189).
A big part of the program has been Ochoa, who has instilled a certain mentality that Viking wrestlers wear as a badge of honor. But he also has help in assistants Bobby Bellamy, Vince La Farge and Dana Craig, who is now the school’s vice principal.
“We’re all like brothers,” Salinas said. “You just have to fight through. We battle with that chip on our shoulder to keep it going.
“The coaches help a lot. Ochoa is like my father, a second father and we’re his kids. Bellamy, we have a relationship like no other. They are not just coaches. We have a good bond.”
Ochoa said a big key is Bellamy, who wrestled at Damien and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He, along with Le Farge, are the glue to the program, which annually has more than 80 kids in the program.
“See all those kids in there,” said Ochoa pointing to the team room. “That’s it. I think the key for Northview High School is that we have 80 kids in the program every year. It’s keeping them involved, keeping them around the program, keeping them around the sport. I think keeping a lot of kids in the program and having a strong coaching staff is what’s been the key to our success.
“Coach Bellamy and coach La Farge as far as I’m concerned are the two best wrestling coaches in Southern California, and as good as any in the state. They are the ones who coach the team. I give support, That’s my role right now. But it starts with coach Bellamy and coach La Farge. What makes us special? It’s Bellamy. He knows the sport so well, knows how to teach it, and is the best motivator I’ve ever known.”
The ironic thing is Bellamy was hoping Northview would be a stepladder to a head coaching position elsewhere, but that changed after a few years in the program.
“I was searching for a program where I could be an assistant coach, learn and get my own program,” he said. “But I realized I liked my role rather than do what David Ochoa does. Nobody in the state works harder. He makes my job easier. He makes me willing to sacrifice”
And it’s that attitude that he has passed down to the team which proved the naysayers wrong last season. Northview won the school’s fourth consecutive divisional title in a year when it was thought the Vikings would struggle through the growing pains of a young team.
Instead, the Vikings won five individual titles and coasted to the Eastern Division championship.
“(Two years before) we had Caleb Flores (four-time state placer) and Shad Manigault, and everyone expected us to win,” Ochoa said. “But when they graduated everybody said we were going to come way back down. And we dominated like when we had our all-star team. It was very gratifying knowing that we had developed kids who had never wrestled before and they (became champions).”
This success has allowed Northview to obtain what few sports programs in California have achieved – notoriety.
“When you go to places in all parts of California and wear a Northview sweatshirt people say, `Yeah, you guys have a good wrestling program,”‘ Bellamy said. “It does feel good. I won’t act like it doesn’t.
“But to be honest, it’s for these kids, they work so, so hard. You want to reap the rewards at the end of the year. Not so much us. I’ve done it. I have 10 CIF championships, and I value everyone, but I want these kids to experience it. I want to see these kids get what they deserve.”
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