Spartans and Scorpions take it to the mat

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© Richard Gillard/Acorn Newspapers
Camarillo’s Daniel Kodama pins his opponent in the 120-pound weight class during a dual meet against Oxnard on Jan. 4. © Richard Gillard/Acorn Newspapers
Camarillo and Rio Mesa high schools’ wrestling teams enjoyed brilliant campaigns last winter.

The Scorpions earned a share of the Pacific View League title with Oxnard while the Spartans celebrated eight finalists and six champions at the league tournament.

Now the script is flipped.

Camarillo has taken its lumps, according to head coach Ron Wilson. Rio Mesa is in the midst of a rebuilding season, said Spartan head coach Juan Flores.

Nobody should count out either team, however.

“We’d like to win league. The odds are against us,” Wilson said. “Never count out Camarillo. You never know what we can put together. Things might come together. It’s a possibility. You just never know.”

Here’s a closer look at both squads:

CAMARILLO SCORPIONS

A trio of savvy seniors and a triumvirate of freshman upstarts give the Scorpions a shot in the arm.

Channel Islands and Pacifica are the midseason favorites to contend for league supremacy, but Camarillo has a throng of tough wrestlers in the lower weight classes.

Daniel Kodama, a 120-pound senior, has won two Pacific View crowns. He’s shooting for championship No. 3 this winter—and a deep postseason rumble to the state meet at Bakersfield.

“It’s going to take a lot of practice and putting in extra hours out of the wrestling room,” said Kodama, who’s participated in judo since he was 4. “I have to work on my endurance and strength.”

Wilson said Kodama has a lot of tough moves while working from the bottom position.

Kodama thrives when the spotlight’s brightest.

“I seem to perform well under pressure,” he said. “I like the spotlight matches. It makes me perform better.”

Tucker Sanders, a 126-pounder, fights for every single point.

“He never gives up,” Wilson said of Sanders. “He fights no matter what the score is. He’s always in there fighting, battling and striving to be better.”

Sanders said he likes wrestling because “it’s fun to beat people up.”

“Everyone gets along,” Sanders said. “It’s a good team. Everyone pushes each other in the room and they work hard.”

The senior, who played two years of ACHS baseball, spent this offseason at freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments.

He hopes the hard work will earn him a ticket to the Masters tourney.

Trenton Meline is another talented senior at 146 pounds.

“The three of these guys are all leaders, but they’re quiet leaders,” Wilson said. “They’re not showy. They work hard in practice and try to encourage the other wrestlers to focus and do better also.”

Jeremy Montijo (106 pounds), Corbin Bephurem (113) and Jacob Dorman (132) are freshmen who’ve earned starting varsity roles.

“We have an amazing group of freshmen,” Wilson said. “They work hard. They’re not afraid to take on anyone of any size.”

Montijo is hard on himself even after wins sometimes, the coach said.

Bephurem and Dorman are also tenacious on the mat. In his 30th season overall and 21st at Camarillo, Wilson coached Dorman’s father, Ron.

Rory Macneil, a 152-pound sophomore, is another grappler to watch. He’s been improving each week.

Diego Pena, Matt Hickman Sr. and Frank Bifulco are assistant coaches.

“Our team’s improving each week,” Wilson said. “We’re getting better. Hopefully, we’ll peak at the right time.”

RIO MESA SPARTANS

With nine varsity rookies in the starting lineup, the Spartans are a work in progress.

“ We’ve been focusing on teaching and building some confidence in our kids,” Flores said.

Rio Mesa sprinkled manageable tournaments with tougher events, including the Shark Tank Invitational at Santiago High in Corona during the holiday break.

The Shark Tank featured teams from Oklahoma, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon, according to Flores.

Josef Ramirez is a grappler on the rise.

A defending league champ, Ramirez is a balanced, strong wrestler at 220 pounds.

The Spartan entered this week 12-3 overall.

“I feel pretty good right now,” Ramirez said. “It’s been a good season so far, and I feel this is my year. I feel like I have another shot at a league championship, a CIF championship and placing at Masters.

“You can never put in too much work on the mat. I need to work on everything. I can’t be strong in just one area. I need to be well-rounded.”

The senior captain played football as a freshman at Santa Clara. He picked up wrestling the following year at Rio Mesa.

Ramirez takes the captain’s role seriously.

“I’m there to help anyone,” he said. “If anyone needs help, they can come to me.”

Spartan senior Aaron Largey is a force at 160.

A two-time league finalist, Largey is favored to win a PVL title, the coach said.

Senior Luc Bell at 171 went 4-2 at the Shark Tank. A firstyear varsity grappler, Bell started wrestling last season.

David Anaya is a promising 132-pound freshman.

“The kid’s hungry,” Flores said of Anaya. “He sees the state plaques and the CIF pictures on the wall and he asks, ‘How do I get mine?’”

Tony Flores, Andre Malloy and Sonny Gomez are Rio Mesa assistants.

“It’s a rebuilding year for us,” Juan Flores said. “Expectations are simple: build technique, build confidence and qualify as many guys as we can for CIF.”

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