By Ray Hamill — The two best wrestlers in the H-DNL matched up well against the rest of the North Coast Section this past weekend, and now they get the chance to wrestle against the top wrestlers in the state at this week’s CIF championships in Bakersfield.
Arcata’s Joshua Hannan (126 pounds) and Hoopa’s Gerard Marshall (285) both won a section championship with big performances in Union City, giving the H-DNL an impressive two titles out of 14 weight classes against the entire NCS.
The two champions will be joined at the state meet by Del Norte’s Savannah Williams, who placed third in section at 131, and Eureka’s Lucia Romero, who capped an inspirational comeback with a fourth-place finish at 235.
And that’s an impressive showing for a league that features numerous young standouts this season and is showing improvement over the past few years, according to long-time Del Norte head coach Clinton Schaad.
Both Hannan, who is ranked No. 22 in the state, and Marshall, who is No. 16, are both also only juniors.
“I can’t wait to see what these kids can do,” Arcata head coach Cass Bell said of the impressive duo moving forward.
Hannan was outstanding in Union City and did not give up a single point until the championship matchup.
And Bell is confident the Tigers standout will carry that momentum into the state meet.
“He was ready to go,” the coach said. “I mean, he’s always ready to go, but his demeanor, especially this week, really shows he’s ready to go.
“He was focused and knew what he needed to do, and his takedowns were on point.”
Marshall was equally impressive, going 5-0 over the two days, including three wins by pin.
Williams, meanwhile, is a third-year senior who will graduate early this year and the three-time league champion is looking to close out her high school career strong.
“Some girls are happy just to qualify for state, but not her,” Schaad said. “She’s been wanting to go down and be competitive.”
The Warriors, who won both the boys and girls league titles this year, had a strong showing at the section tournament despite some early setbacks, including one wrestler who was sick and could not travel and another who missed his weight cut.
Of the nine Del Norte boys wrestlers who did compete, seven made it to the second day and all but two were underclassmen.
“The good news is the vast majority of the team is coming back next year,” the head coach said.
In addition to Williams’ big showing, freshman Curtis Bartley placed fifth in the boys 132 bracket and sophomore Channey Schaad was eighth in the girls 106 division.
“A freshman taking fifth is a major accomplishment,” the head coach said. “Freshman section placers are few and far between, and next year he’ll be a year older, wiser and stronger.”
Channey Schaad’s finish was also an impressive accomplishment for a sophomore, and she did a good job dictating her matches and keeping her composure against veteran opponents.
Arcata’s Piper Bjorkstedt is another freshman who placed sixth in her division (160), which was an outstanding achievement for a first-year wrestler.
“I like her mental mindset,” Bell said. “She’s strong minded, and she wants to work hard. She just wants it.
“I’m stoked I have her for the next years. I can’t wait to see what she can do next year.”
This week’s tournament, which will take place in Bakersfield, gets under way on Thursday and runs for three days.