Scorpion wrestlers provide the power

Dual meet.
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© Richard Gillard/Acorn Newspapers
Camarillo High grapplers Matt Schwartz, left photograph in white, and Victor Mondragon tie up their opponents during Wednesday night’s dominating win over Channel Islands at ACHS. The Scorpions are legitimate contenders for a league crown. © Richard Gillard/Acorn Newspapers

The Scorpions are on the rise.

Camarillo High’s wrestling team has balance and depth.

There’s a veteran coaching staff and a superstar who has a legitimate shot to win a state title.

With 70 grapplers on board, the roster’s bigger than it’s been in years.

During last week’s dual meet, the Scorpions crushed Rio Mesa, the defending Pacific View League champions.

Yup, things are looking good for the Scorpions.

“We have kids who can scrap,” Camarillo head coach Ron Wilson said.

Matt Hickman leads the way.

The senior placed sixth at 145 pounds at the CIF State wrestling championships at Bakersfield last year.

Hickman’s shoulders are so broad that if he ran into a Greyhound bus, the bus would suffer more damage.

The 152-pound grappler spent the summer at freestyle, Greco- Roman and collegiate-style wrestling tournaments. He’s added muscle to his frame and finetuned his mechanics.

“I feel I’ve gotten better,” said Hickman, who entered this week 18- 1. “ I don’t know if I’ve changed. I just cleaned up my technique a little bit.”

Hickman is cautiously optimistic about Camarillo’s chances to win a Pacific View title and have multiple wrestlers advance in the postseason.

“I don’t want to jinx us,” he said. “We’re good enough to compete for a league championship. Who knows? Anything can happen.

“I want to finish this season strong, work harder and harder every day and hopefully end up with a California state championship.”

He remains motivated after a strong showing at the state tournament.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Hickman said. “It was good that I placed, but I wanted to make it to the finals. There’s still a bitter taste in my mouth about last year.”

The 18-year-old grappler said he’s leaning toward signing with Nebraska, and he has aspirations to study kinesiology.

Trenton Meline, a junior grappler at 140 and 145 pounds, appreciates working with Hickman on a daily basis.

“Matt’s not a jerk. He could beat up on me, but he tries to teach me stuff,” Meline said. “I like drilling with people who are better than me.”

Meline is one of the most promising wrestlers in the Camarillo system.

The junior is 3-0 since returning from a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. He’s still working his way into shape.

The Scorpion said he’s grateful to be back.

“When I got hurt, I missed it,” he said. “When I went to tournaments, I realized how much I love the sport and that I was jealous of my teammates because I couldn’t wrestle. It’s a blast to be out here.”

One of Meline’s best moves is the high-c double takedown. The junior, who has a 3.3 grade-point average, also enjoys surfing.

Now it’s all about wrestling.

“I just want to keep improving,” Meline said.

Tucker Sanders is a beast at 103. After working with an elite California USA wrestling squad this summer, the junior entered this week 17-6.

“That’s helped him by leaps and bounds,” Wilson said of Sanders’ offseason training.

“He works extremely hard. He’s improving every week. He’s a good listener and he’s team-oriented. He’s very coachable and he’s easy to work with.”

Wilson, in his 19th season at Camarillo and 31st coaching overall, offered high praise for Sanders and Meline.

“They want to get better. They’re not satisfied with where they are now,” the coach said.

“These kids, they’re like sponges. They want to learn. They’re not close-minded about learning new moves.”

Sanders enjoys working out with junior Daniel Kodama, a 112-pound grappler.

“Everyone’s working hard this year,” said Sanders, whose favorite move is the standing doubleleg takedown. “Everyone gets along well. We all compete.”

Sanders, who’s working on his ground game, hopes to place at the CIF finals and earn a trip to the Masters tournament.

Camarillo and about 80 schools will compete at the Five Counties Invitational today and Saturday at Fountain Valley.

Many Scorpions are working hard this season.

R.J. Uchiyama is a strong, fast and athletic 119-pound grappler. Adrian Quiroz, Billy Pryor and Ben Alfaro battle for mat time at 125-to-135 classes.

Hector Cortez, Matt Schwartz, Patrick Ramirez, Joel Venegas and Brandon Baker add depth to the lineup.

Wilson, who wrestled at Camarillo High and UC Santa Barbara, credited his assistant coaches Diego Pena, Frank Bifulco and Matt Hickman Sr. with aiding the program.

“Our lifeline is our coaching staff,” said Wilson, who graduated from ACHS in 1971. “They keep me going. They keep it light.

“We as coaches have similar personalities, and that makes a big difference in our team’s success.”

The Scorpion wrestlers have their priorities straight.

“We’re trying to train them to be good people and good athletes,” Wilson said. “It’s more important that they’re good people.”

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