H-DNL wrestlers get set for season-opening tournament

Submitted photo – Last year’s Del Norte team

By Ray Hamill — North Coast wrestling fans will get a first look at this year’s H-DNL grapplers this weekend, as the new season officially gets under way.

All nine league programs will travel to Crescent City on Saturday to compete at Del Norte’s annual Battle at the Border.

The tournament, which will feature 18 schools and boys and girls brackets, begins at 9 a.m. and the championship rounds are expected to start around 5 p.m.

And the host school will be expected to make some noise, with 11 of the 14 starters back from last year’s boys league championship team.

“We’re looking okay,” Del Norte head coach Clinton Schaad said. “We’ve got a lot of returners, so I’d say we have a lot of potential, but that’s only potential.”

The longtime coach knows his wrestlers will have to go out and perform in order to live up to expectations, but the Warriors once appear to be the team to beat.

Some of the key returners include Curtis Bartley, Alex Osbourne, RJ Loftin, Eric Stansberry and Isaac Lopez, while freshman Chulhs Bates is also expected to play a key role after being ranked No. 4 in the state as an eighth grader.

The Hoopa Warriors are also expected to field a strong team this winter, as they continue to build on the momentum they have been establishing the past couple of years.

Senior Gerard Marshall is back to lead the way for Hoopa after winning a North Coast Section championship and enjoying a big showing at the state meet last year.

Big things are also expected out of Arcata senior Josh Hannan, who also won a section championship as a junior.

The first local tournament of the year will give the wrestlers and coaches a better understanding of where they stand right now, but in wrestling the season is always about building momentum and peaking later in the campaign.

“It’s kind of like any sport, that first competition you’re going to see what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you have to improve on,” Schaad said. “Everybody wants to win, but for me this weekend is really about kind of keeping an eye on the long-term prize.”

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