The Pitman High varsity wrestling team is coming off the most successful season in school history after winning its first Central California Conference title in 2013-14 and posting a 12-1 overall record.
This season, the team is looking a bit different after graduating three state qualifiers, but head coach Adam Vasconcellos says that this squad might just be the best group yet.
“We have more potential than any team we have ever had here on campus,” Vasconcellos said. “If we do what we are supposed to do and the kids take care of business and keep up their grades, show up, work hard and do what they are supposed to do, which they do and have been so far, then our potential is as high as it has ever been. Last season was a pretty good year, our only loss came to Del Oro.”
When Vasconcellos came to the Pitman wrestling team seven years ago, he was a man on a mission — to create a program that could develop talented young wrestlers to excel at the highest level in the wrestling room and school.
A philosophy of hard work and determination was implemented, along with the addition of a strategic plan that was very simple but effective, according to Vasconcellos, in order to create driven and motivated student-athlete wrestlers.
“When we first got here it was about implementing our own style. We have our own style compared to other people,” he said. “We are very, very basic and it's about having a kid start with you all four years and at first the kids were not used to the work ethic, so slowly we been progressing.”
Since then, the team has steadily grown from about 20 wrestlers to about 70 heading into this season at every level.
“It hadn't happened like that at first because it took time for the program to catch up with what we were doing type of thing and get the kids going as well,” Vasconcellos said.
Pitman finished third in the Division-I A Section tournament last season, along with finishing top three in four tournaments.
The Pride returns nine state qualifiers this season and six master's qualifiers as well.
The Pride will be a senior-heavy squad led by Lorenzo Lewis (145), Christian Clementi (158), Quentin Hernandez (160), Hayden Mattox (163), and Nick (147) and Gilbert (149) Valadez. Adam and Angel Velasquez will also be huge competitors at the 129 and 135 weight classes, respectively.
“This year we have a big group of seniors who have wrestled more matches than I have ever seen any kids wrestle before in their lives,” said Vasconcellos. “We got a good group of kids to start our season. Potential wise, it is one of the best teams I've been on, even when I coached at Central Catholic.”
Freshman Isaiah Perez should also be a newcomer that will step in and compete at the varsity level for coach Vasconcellos.
“We do have some places where we need to improve, even our better kids. It's more than winning a league title and division title,” said Vasconcellos “Our kids want to win a master's title, that is what they talk about.”
To use this as fuel and motivation, the wrestling team has been a witness to Pitman's great volleyball season and are looking to make the school just as proud.
“Our volleyball team is killing it and all our guys have been going to the games, hoping they will come out and support the wrestling matches,” Vasconcellos said. “They want to do the same thing. Our guys want to get a blue banner already having one, they want another one and that is all they talk about.”