By Tadizo Garcia
To win a wrestling state title you should sport a strong team with veteran experience and top recruits out of high school. The Huskies have done just that.
Ralph Valle, 19-year East Los Angeles College head coach, had a great recruiting off-season and returns veterans from three past seasons.
ELAC will begin with the Green and White Dual next Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the men’s gym.
“We have the potential to be a real good team. We return several (Huskies) and have CIF place winners out of high school,” Valle said.
One recruit adding to the Huskies strength is heavyweight William Amelong from Long Beach Wilson High School who took fifth place in his weight class at the CIF finals last year. Amelong is an athlete born without his left forearm and hand.
“I suppose it can be a disadvantage, but it doesn’t affect me when wrestling because I never had them. It can be intimidating to my opponents, who don’t have at least one hand or arm to grab onto,” Amelong said.
Amelong also spoke on his decision to come to ELAC. “This is a strong program with Ralph Valle as the coach. I met him while in high school and decided joining the team is the best move for me,” Amelong said.
The Huskies will host four games this year in their quest for another top-10 finish at the state finals.
“We are deep in each weight class. We wrestle each other (at the Dual), which gives us a chance to see where we are,” Valle said.
“We are wrestling for starting positions. It is an exciting match in front of many fans including the cheerleaders and alumni,” Husky Omar Ochoa said.
Other recruits include: heavyweight Lavante Chism from Long Beach Poly High School, who took fourth at CIF last year; three-time city champion Josh Adad; Warner Quevedo from Monroe High School, who was ranked second last year at 275 pounds from The California Wrestler; and Davit Hovhannisyan at 125 pounds.
Returning for their sophomore seasons are Hugo Perez, who was a state finalist last year at 125 pounds, and Omar Ochoa, who missed out on the state finals last year by one point to Santa Ana College’s Nathan Matteo.
“My goal is to win state, not just qualify. It takes determination and dedication every day,” Ochoa said. If rankings are any indication, Ochoa, who was ranked all season last year, will be a favorite in his weight class at 149 pounds.
Also returning are sophomores Francisco Aceves, Travon Harper, Andrew Reel and Michael Zaragoza. Aceves is a wrestling coach at Bell High School.
Husky Veterans returning to the mat also include Rafik Hovhannisyan who took sixth place at the 2011 state finals and 2008 state finalist Josh Quesada.
Last year two Huskies cracked the statewide record books when Gonzalo Vargas edged Gerardo Aranda, 55-54 in overtime, in front of a large crowd at the ELAC Brawl.
The match pulled in fans and coaches from other teams while two other matches were taking place in the tournament hosted by ELAC.
Vargas and Aranda did not return to the team this season.
The Huskies also lost two competitors who advanced to last year’s state finals and led ELAC to a 10th place overall finish at state; Joshua Newman (174 pounds) and Michael Middlebrooks (184 pounds) both brought home fourth place nods.
Also gone are heavyweight Julian Zuniga who placed sixth at state (2012), state finalists Victor Cisneros (2012) and Adrian Virgen at 157 pounds (2011).