Event signals start of winter campaign for Lions
El Molino will kick off the 2019-20 wrestling season in historic fashion this Saturday, Nov. 23, when it hosts an estimated 11 teams and some 250 female athletes at the first annual Lady Lions Wrestling Tournament. The action starts at 9 a.m.
The event will showcase the fastest growing sport in high school, with 17 North Coast Section placers, eight state qualifiers and four state placers expected to participate.
Other participating teams will include Albany, Windsor, Ukiah, Rancho Cotate, Montgomery, Elsie Allen, Middletown, Petaluma, Vintage, Santa Rosa and Amador Valley.
Among the top competitors will be El Molino junior and returning state placer Hannah Ricioli, who led the Lady Lions to a first-ever league title last season. Ricioli followed up a state placing in March with a 16-under Freestyle championship medal in Fargo, North Dakota last summer.
“Hannah looks to improve on her sixth place finish at CIF State last year,” El Molino coach Ron Wright said. “Hannah has grown and matured so much in the off season, and there is no limit to what she can achieve this year.”
Lions looking to move up in league ranks
El Molino will be looking for both team and individual improvement this season, with a list of veterans that should help the Lions climb the ladder in the North Bay League Redwood Division.
The list of junior returnees includes 145-pound Erik Dimond, a two-time North Coast Section qualifier; 152-pound Zavier Grech, an up and comer who’s spent the off-season working on strength; and Asher Weathersbee, who returns after a one-year hiatus.
First-year wrestlers will feature 160-pound junior Ka’io Gaspar-Thompson, a quick learner with an extensive Jujitsu background, and Cooper Bennett, who will fill out the heavyweight division and is working hard to condition himself for the rigors of the season.
The Lions will start their second season in the NBL Redwood Division, with the race for the boys crown likely to be a numbers game again this year.
“In the Redwood division, the team with the most wrestlers should win the title for the boys,” Wright said, assisted by son Josh Wright. “I see Rancho Cotate versus Elsie Allen as the key match up.”
The title chase in the NBL girls division is a tough one to call.
“It’s hard to say, because you never know how many girls will come out, and some join a little later in the season,” Wright noted. “I would like to think we can repeat, but you never know how things will line up.”