Six years ago Denair High’s wrestling program was virtually non-existent, boasting a three man roster and receiving little to no interest from the student body. This season’s squad is still small compared to the likes of Turlock or Pitman High, but with 18 Coyotes in the wrestling room head coach Don Helnore can say that Denair wrestling is growing—and with a middle school wrestling program cultivating interest in the sport, it’s safe to say that growth will continue for years to come.
“This is probably the most experienced groups of kids I’ve had, even though a lot of them are still sophomores,” Helnore said.
To be exact, one third of Denair’s team is in their sophomore year. Of those six sophomores, Luis Mendoza is expected to accomplish big things on the mat at 220 pounds. Mendoza nearly qualified for divisionals last season and is expected to push through and earn a bracket spot in this year’s tournament.
“He’s coming into his own; building from last year,” Helnore said. “He’s looking like he can do something this year.”
Along with experience, practice time with senior heavyweight Kristopher Waldon has helped Mendoza improve his skills in 2012. Waldon, who opted to play basketball as a junior, qualified for divisionals as a sophomore and will be a big part of Denair’s Southern Athletic League campaign.
Waldon will also be joined by fellow senior Arizona Olave, who also skipped his junior year, and his freshman brother Indiana Olave.
“He’s going to be an up and comer,” Helnore said about Indiana.
Although SAL opponents Mariposa and Waterford High will be tough to beat, Helnore believes he has the squad to both compete and surprise on the mat.
“I think we can be in the mix,” Helnore said. “We’re a smaller team but this year we’re covering all the weight classes, which is nice.”
Denair continues their growth on the mat at today’s Enochs Dual Meet Tournament in Modesto. The Coyotes will also compete in Hughson’s Christman Dual Meet on Dec. 20 before their SAL opener against Big Valley Christian High on Jan. 2.