College of the Redwoods to host open mat practice on Friday

By Ray Hamill — College wrestling returns to the North Coast this fall for the first time since 1991 with College of the Redwoods fielding a men’s team.

And locals fans will have an opportunity to check out the new team this week, when the Corsairs host an open mat event at the CR gym on Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Fans can watch the team practice as well as take in a couple of intra-squad matches, as the CR men continue their preparation for their season opening tournament in Sacramento on Sept. 16.

“It’s a good way to see what a college practice looks like,” head coach Brandon Benvenuti said. “And they can watch a couple of matches.”

Benvenuti has been busy recruiting since being hired earlier this summer and has a sizable roster of 17 wrestlers for the history-making team, which will be the first at CR to compete in the sport in more than four decades.

Cal Poly Humboldt, which is also expected to bring men’s wrestling back in the near future, last competed in wrestling in 1991.

The Corsairs have been practicing together for the last few weeks and the wrestlers are looking forward to making some history on the mats.

“It’s going great,” Benvenuti said. “We’ve got 17 guys in there and they’re working hard.”

The new roster features several locals, including two-time defending North Coast Section heavyweight champion Gerard Marshall of Hoopa.

“We’re extremely excited to have him and to have him stay locally,” Benvenuti said of the Hoopa standout, who was this year’s Humboldt Sports Little 4 Boys Athlete of the Year. “He’s about 260 pounds and can move like a cat We like that.

“He’s very athletic, very coachable, and he’s got a good wrestling background.”

This year’s team also includes a pair of Arcata grapplers — Dakota Sanders, who placed second at the NCS championships and qualified for the state championships, and Isaac Weaver — as well as McKinleyville’s William Baumgarten, who was fourth at the NCS meet in February.

Three Ukiah wrestlers also will compete on this year’s team — Kyani Capri, Juan Magallon and Kenji Jimenez — as well as Anderson High brothers Anthony and Billy Smith, and all of them are expected to make an immediate impact on the college mats.

Also joining the team this year is Ben Rider from SoCal and Folsom’s Jeff Skyrud, who was a San Joaquin Section champion and a state qualifier.

And Benvenuti is more than happy with what he’s seen from his wrestler so far.

“I really like their athleticism and their work ethic,” the new coach said. “And they’re excited that they’re the first group of guys to bring back wrestling to College of the Redwoods.

“They’re embracing it and blazing a path for those to come in the future.”

The Corsairs are scheduled to host just one dual meet this season — against Sierra College on Nov. 3 — but are also hoping to host a tournament at CR on Nov. 11.

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