Believe it or not it's that time of year again. Menlo's boys in blue and white are ready to hit the mats and kick off another exhilarating season of Oaks men's wrestling. The 2012-13 squad will welcome back a plethora of returning talent, and coupled with a promising collection of newcomers, Menlo might just have the pieces in place to make some serious noise at the NAIA National Tournament at the end of February.
"This is the best group I have had, on and off the mats, since I have been head coach here," said fourth year Menlo man in charge Joey Martinez on this year's Oaks. "There is a lot of National Champion and All-American potential on this team, and I believe we can stack up with any of the elite teams in the country."
Sitting atop the list of Menlo's key returning cluster are senior Angel Garcia, junior David Rios, and sophomores Scott Brasil and Christian Franks. Garcia was the Oaks lone All-American in the 2011-12 campaign, finishing with a 7th place finish in the 133lb. weight class in last year's Nationals. For Rios, the native of Brentwood, CA was a match away from placing in last season's Nationals, while the dynamic youthful duo of Franks and Brasil received key experience last march in Des Moines, IA. Both sophomores also finished with over 15 wins last year, with Brasil taking home a second place finish in the West Regional.
"Those four guys all have experience in the national tournament so they know what to expect, which is a big element towards success in March," remarked the aforementioned Coach Martinez on his prime time returning assemblage. "Their approach in terms of training and their overall mindset is more focused than last season. They are already working extremely hard to get the job done this year."
Shifting towards Menlo's assemblage of newcomers, we see that there is a lot to be excited about. Make sure to keep a keen eye on Kyle West, Eric Lopez, Luis Onofre, and Troy Lakin, as well as Sammy Cano who is coming off a red shirt campaign in 2011-12.
Lopez enters his Menlo career as a sophomore, transferring over from Victor Valley College in Southern California. The Turlock, CA native earned a California Community College state championship as well as the tournament's most outstanding JC wrestler honor, and is expected to compete in either the 157 or 165lb. weight class. Luis Onofre brings a similar resume to the forefront, as the incoming junior dominated while at Santa Ana College, earning Junior College Al-American status on two separate occasions.
As far as West is concerned, the incoming junior from El Dorado Hills comes to Menlo with NCAA Division I experience after previously wrestling at Utah Valley University. In high school he was a two-time state placer along with earning All-American status while suiting up at Oak Ridge High School. West should be ready to go in either the 133 or 141lb. weight class. Lakin shows promise in the 125lb. weight class, rolling off a remarkable 45-7 record throughout his time at Clayton Valley High School in Concord, CA, culminating in a high school All-American selection and placing in state competition.
"This group of newcomers comes in hungry, having won in the past at either the high school or even the collegiate stage," commented Martinez. "I believe they raise the level of the entire team, and getting them on the same page with everyone shouldn't be hard."
The Oaks should have the chips in place for a remarkable 2012-13 year, but as Coach Martinez notes, that's only half the battle. The Turlock, CA native cites commitment, hard work, and attitude as three key factors that will determine the fate of this season's squad. "We need to be training, thinking, eating, and overall just living to be a National Champion or All-American," Martinez said. "We also have to constantly improve and make adjustments after wins and losses. Our attitude needs to be geared in the right direction as well. Win or lose, we have to feel excited about hitting the mats."
The exhilarating action kicks off on October 13th with Menlo's Annual Blue and White Intersquad, before real competition begins on October 17th as the Oaks travel to nearby Skyline College for duals with Skyline and Modesto Junior College. November 3rd is expected to be a big day on the calendar, as Menlo will hit the mats for regular season duals for the first time inside Haynes-Prim Pavilion. The Oaks will clash with California Baptist, Simpson University, and Stanford. Menlo travels to Texas on December 1st for the Amarillo Duals, which should serve as a nice opportunity for the Oaks to go up against some of the NAIA's best and of course don't sleep on two of Menlo's bigger rivals with a dual against Southern Oregon on February 1st, and a trip to San Francisco State on February 6th. The NAIA West Regional is ready for February 16th in Great Falls, MT, and Nationals are scheduled to begin on February 28th in Des Moines, IA.