By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Fresh off of its second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Division 2 team championship, things will get progressively more difficult this weekend for the Northview High School wrestling team at the Southern Section individual championships.
The Vikings qualified all 14 members of their weight classes, but just how many win titles and/or advance to next week’s Masters meet figures to dwindle sharply, thanks to the strength of the Southern Division.
“These guys have won Five Counties, they’ve had an outstanding season, so they’re one of the best teams we’ve had here,” Northview coach David Ochoa said. “I’m going to really honest, the division we’re in is very tough.
“We’re going to have to have really great tournaments or a lot of these guys won’t be wrestling next weekend. It’s a really competitive division.”
The Vikings will arrive at Brea-Olinda for today’s prelims as strong as ever. But their best chances appear to center around Steven Lopez, who is looking for a repeat championship at 160 pounds. Eddie Bernal, who finished fourth in the individual meet last year and qualified at Masters, also figures to give another good account of himself at 182 pounds.
Northview boasts 14 league champions, but none of that matters in the division, where the Vikings are competing for the second consecutive season.
“There’s about six or seven really strong programs (in the division) and then some really strong individuals,” Ochoa said. “So my son (Eric) is at 113 and he’s had a great year, but he’s going to have to have the tournament of his life just to qualify.
It’s hard to see returning champion Ritchie Taira of Walnut not being the favorite to win the weight class and punch another ticket to the Masters.
But Diamond Bar’s Nathan Pike also had a solid season and should give a strong showing as well.
Northview has other top performers in Javier Areallano (152), Bryan Salinas (145), and David Valles (140).
“A lot of good kids aren’t going to make it out,” Ochoa said. “Not just from my school, but from other schools. If we were still up in Oxnard, we would have gotten most of our really good kids through. The competition in wrestling in the Southern Section continues to improve. It’s getting a little tougher to continue to progress..”
The top five at each weight class will move on to the Masters next week at Temecula Valley.