James Logan High is ready to kick De La Salle off the throne and end the Spartans' five-year run as wrestling kings of the North Coast Section, and the Colts appear to have the numbers to do it.
Returning NCS champions Jacob Macalolooy and Clayton Hartwell lead a full contingent of 14 Colts into the section tournament, which takes place Friday and Saturday at Newark Memorial High. De La Salle qualified 11. Three Colts are seeded first, as opposed to one for De La Salle. The Colts have six returning placewinners, the Spartans five.
"But a seed is just a number; the kids still have to wrestle," said James Logan coach Eli Bagaoisan. "It's going to come down to who wins the big matches."
For Macalolooy, at 138 pounds, and Hartwell, at 195, North Coast is part of the journey, not the destination. The top three in each weight class advance to the state championships the following weekend in Bakersfield.
"They want to repeat as champions, and they have bigger goals the following week -- getting on the podium at (state)," Bagaoisan said.
"I feel really strong, I feel really good, so I don't think anybody can stop me," Hartwell said earlier this month after he won at the Mission San Jose Invitational. "I feel I'm in the running for the state championship. I don't care who's in my way, I'm going to take it."
Jacob Donato of the Colts, the top NCS seed at 120, was third last year. Zach Wally, the No. 2 seed at 182, was seventh at 170, and Felix Bonavente, fifth at 132 a year ago, is seeded sixth at that weight.
Two of the keys for James Logan, Bagaoisan said, will be Wally and freshman Manovjat Singh, seeded eighth at 113 pounds. Wally missed a chunk of the season as a result of an injury in the first tournament of the year, while Singh has settled in.
"Wally has come back two weeks ago and got to the weight class where he needs to be, and our 115-pounder, I think he can do some damage," Bagaoisan said.
But until another team raises the banner, De La Salle is still the champion, and coach Mark Halvorson won't give it up without a fight.
Donovin Guerrero (106), David Conte (126), Nathan Cervantes (132), Doug Hooper (138) and Jack Walsh (145) reached the medal stand last year.
Hooper will be one of the keys for the Spartans, Halvorson said. The senior defaulted through the East Bay Athletic League tournament because of injuries sustained during the NCS Dual tournament but was given an at-large entry to NCS and seeded fourth.
Two returning champions were not seeded first in their weight classes this year, American's Jared Luty (113 pounds) and Freedom's Ricky Coster (120). Luty won the 106-pound title last year but is seeded second behind Windsor's Perez Perez.
Coster, who was ranked 10th in the state at 120 by The California Wrestler, moved up to 126 and is seeded second behind Liberty's Devin Lyle, who has beaten Coster twice this season.
Three other EBAL wrestlers earned No. 1 seeds: Amador Valley's Tommy Yozzo (132), Granada's Angel Beltran (145) and Foothill's Arthur Knatt (170). Yozzo was third at 126 last year, Beltran was second at 138, and Knatt was a match away from placing at 170.
NCS Wrestling Championships
WHERE: Newark Memorial High School, 39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
WHEN: Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday; finals are at 6 p.m. Saturday
ADVANCEMENT: Top three in each weight advance to the state championships March 7-8 in Bakersfield.