While attention has shifted to the state wrestling tournament in Bakersfield, Livermore High coach Brad Vadnais carries fond memories of the North Coast Section championships.
The Cowboys had two notable firsts on Feb. 23 in Newark: Tyler Rardon became the school's first two-time individual champion with his win at 152 pounds, and Nicolas "Nico" Lang (145) gave the Cowboys two winners at a single NCS event for the first time.
"It was a nice finals," Vadnais said with a laugh.
It was nice also for the city of Livermore.
Granada's Kyle Campiotti earned his first section championship with a dominating run in the 160-pound division, and the Matadors' Angel Beltran (138) dropped a tough 9-6 decision against Logan's Jacob Macalolooy in the championship round.
The top three in each division, down one from last year, qualified for the California Interscholastic Federation Championships at Rabobank Arena, March 1-2.
Lang had a Rocky Balboa-style run with wins over No. 3 seed Levi Russel of Las Lomas in the quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Anthony Urbina of College Park in the semifinals and top seed Payton Russum of De La Salle, 3-2 in overtime, in the championship match.
"All very intense matches and it was just very exciting to watch," Vadnais said of Lang's efforts. "Hard worker, and he deserves every success that he's got."
Lang surely had extra motivation after what happened last year at NCS. He finished sixth, dropping an 8-6 heartbreaker against Newark Memorial's Jacob Pratt in the consolation round, when a victory would have clinched a state berth. Lang led with 30 seconds left, made a mistake and paid dearly for it. He got caught in a cradle, and his state hopes were dashed.
Vadnais said he talked to Lang, an aggressive competitor, throughout the season about being a smart wrestler and always knowing the score.
"He's improved a ton," Vadnais said.
The accomplished Rardon, the top seed at NCS who had a 1-2 record at state last year, had the pressure of being the favorite last week. He bested Ian Black of Healdsburg for the third time this season, 6-3 in the semifinals. Then Rardon beat tough Joey Clay of Rancho Cotate 5-3 in the championship round.
"Tyler wrestled well enough to win, and now it comes down to bracketing at the state tournament," Vadnais said. "He's positioned well. Actually, they both are positioned somewhat well. Going down to the state tournament, it's whoever brings their 'A' game.
"Some people are just happy to be there. Hopefully, our boys aren't. Hopefully, they're going down there to put a dent in the brackets and advance and do well."
VALLEY CHRISTIAN SOARS: A gem of a story has unfolded on quiet Inspiration Drive in Dublin. The Valley Christian girls basketball team has made tremendous strides in the last two seasons under coach Scott Babinat.
After having a 23-113 overall record from 2004 to 2011, the Vikings went 25-4 last season and advanced to NCS.
This season they took it to an even higher level.
Valley Christian, which went unbeaten in the Bay Counties League-East division, roared into the NCS Division V semifinals as the top seed, with dominating wins over Drew-San Francisco and Sonoma Academy-Santa Rosa. The Vikings faced Urban (San Francisco) in the semifinals on Feb. 27.
The Vikings have played a fast-paced and exciting style. The balanced squad has boasted senior Izzy Ayad, sophomores Alyssa Lorenzo, Arianna Cunha, and Kayla Frierson, and freshman Nina Bessolo, who scored 30 points combined in the first two playoff wins.
Also contributing are Tia Woodson, Emma Ayad, Giselle Aikenhead, Alyssa Arace, Jamie Babinat, and Rebecca Pilz.
Contact Matt Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @schwab_matt.