While nothing in sports is happening around these parts, a lot is still taking place. Redlands East Valley has a guy who will train with a wrestler battling for an Olympic berth.
At Citrus Valley, a couple of “freshmen” set school records. Meanwhile, there’s a Redlands High kid heading off to play baseball — sans pandemic — in a Missouri city right down Interstate 64 from St. Louis.
It seemed like a long shot that Sabastian Gutierrez could launch such a successful wrestling campaign, having suffered a concussion during the school’s winless football season.
But he had to sit out for over two-thirds of the wrestling season. Concussion recovery from football takes time and patience.
I think Gutierrez took a 5-0 record into the CIF-Southern Section postseason meets, sweeping through the Citrus Belt League championships and improving his 2019 fifth place finish in the heavyweight ranks to win his Eastern Division title this past March.
Colleges are dropping wrestling programs like it’s a bad case of COVID-19. (Sorry — bad joke!) When a local wrestler gets a full-ride scholarship, it’s worth noting.
Bryan Holcombe, headed for his fourth year as REV coach, made a notification last week. Quickly, there are questions to be asked. Like this one:
“How much shopping around did he have to do to get this connection?”
Holcombe put me away like it was a simple one-leg takedown.
“Sabastian’s deadly combo of skill and size doesn’t need much of an introduction. He was noticed by a contact of Doane last year at CIF,” he said.
Doane University is in Crete, Nebraska, a short hop from Lincoln and a little longer to Omaha.
It’s worth noting, too, that Ceron Francisco is a Doane assistant coach. Francisco’s background is an NAIA national runner-up at Concordia, Nebraska, two-time All-American while training with his eye on the next Olympic Games.
He’s ranked 10th nationally at 285 pounds.
Other college coaches “reached out” to Holcombe in pursuit of his prize heavyweight, but “it was never really much of a question. Sabastian will be learning from a stud heavyweight who can really help him grow as a wrestler.”
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Speaking of Nebraska colleges:
Dani Wheeler’s younger sister, Chaselyn, claimed a spot on the records board at Citrus Valley High.
Chaselyn’s early season 5:27.69 in the 500-yard freestyle will replace Paulina Calderon, whose 5:36 was set seven years ago.
Both Wheeler girls were freshmen in 2019-20.
Except that Dani Wheeler was a freshman at NCAA Div. III Nebraska Wesleyan College where she now owns the school’s 200-yard butterfly, 2:24.07, which was set in her eighth place Liberal Arts Conference championships at Elsah College in Principia, Ill.
Chaselyn’s season was, of course, shut down.
Her coach, Jesse O’Donnell, confirmed the record.
Dani’s season was held during the winter months, weeks before the shutdown took place. Footnote: Greg Fleming, who launched Nebraska Wesleyan’s inaugural swim program in 2013, has retired as that school’s head men’s and women’s coach. Considered a swimming legend in the heartland, Fleming didn’t have to lure Dani Wheeler to the Lincoln campus.
“I have family in Nebraska,” said Wheeler, “who introduced the school to me and it turned out to be a perfect fit.”
Yes, she said, Fleming is retiring and former assistant coach Kyle Hunt took over.
“There was no connection prior to before I visited the school, but he was an amazing coach this past year.”
Prep swim season was so short that only one school record fell. That was Chaselyn’s 500-free mark.
A check of the other city’s public school’s pool records shows that no other marks were set.
“Nope,” said REV’s Dani Ford, “no school records.”
Redlands High’s Austin Brown, likewise. “We didn’t have any.” There just wasn’t enough of a season. Redlands and REV have some real low numbers on their board.
Those schools are backed by high quality swim clubs with lots of past Junior Olympic champions, U.S. national qualifiers and a handful of Olympic Trials contenders.
There probably isn’t a single pool record at Citrus Valley that could match up with anything at REV or Redlands.
One example: Chaselyn’s 5:27.69 in the CV’s pool doesn’t come close to REV senior Liberty Williams’ 4:46, her mark in winning last year’s CIF Division 2 championship.
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They’re celebrating outfielder Peter Brooks’ baseball scholarship to NAIA powerhouse Missouri Baptist University.
Who’s “they?” you ask. It’s Redlands High baseball. A Terrier. One of their own made the grade.
The campus is in Creve Coeur, Missouri — ever hear of it? It’s close to St. Louis. The Spartans were 11-8 before the shutdown. They were coming off a 36-17 season in 2019.
NAIA schools are plentiful in the Midwest. It’s a far cry from NCAA regulations, but it’s a way to get educated, to play and get cash credit for tuition, books and maybe housing.
NAIA schools offer different challenges and acceptance policies than that of NCAA campuses.
It could be a way to go if a high school student-athlete hasn’t toed the mark academically until, say, their junior year. More to come on that in the months ahead.
Brooks, meanwhile, was last seen around these parts playing for the Terriers in his senior season, 2016, when he batted .351 with five triples on a 14-12-1 Terrier squad. He swiped 15 bags that season.
In one pandemic-stricken season at nearby Mount San Jacinto, Brooks had a dozen hits, batted .226 and came up with two HRs. It wasn’t much, but we’re figuring this kid searched high and low for a spot that would take his batting average and grades.
The NAIA World Series was scheduled for the weekend of May 22 in traditional Lewiston, Idaho — but for the shutdown.