The wrestling season started wrong but turned out right for the Rancho Santiago College men's team this year.
Rancho Santiago lost its top two wrestlers two weeks before the season started but adjusted and went on to win the South Coast Conference title. This is the program's third year back after being dropped for lack of funds in 1982.
The defections started when Tom Crawford--who was the second-ranked heavyweight in the state last season before he injured his back and missed the last month of the season--returned to Oklahoma State, which he attended as a redshirt freshman. Then Arnold Alpert (134 pounds) took a scholarship at Cal State Fullerton a few days after Crawford left.
The loss of Crawford so close to the start of the season forced Rancho Santiago to go without a true heavyweight. So Coach Gary deBeaubien moved freshman Dave Grisafe, who was suppose to wrestle at 194 pounds, to heavyweight.
Grisafe saved two conference matches for Rancho Santiago this season. He defeated his Palomar and Golden West opponents to give Rancho Santiago 21-20 victories over both schools.
But he was just one of the last-minute heroes for the Dons.
Two days before the final conference match against Mt. San Antonio, Cory Wolik (194 pounds) injured his knee, and deBeaubien was forced to make another move.
This time, he moved Grisafe back to 194 and moved Ken Gominsky, also a 194-pound wrestler behind Wolik, to heavyweight.
The match was tied at 17-17 and Gominsky won a 9-3 decision over Phil Navarro to clinch the match and the conference title for Rancho Santiago, which was 6-1 in conference.
"When we started, I thought we would be just average what with losing Tom and Arnold," deBeaubien said. "But we were able to pull it off. We're just a good dual-meet team. We don't have the superstars, but we are good enough.
"We are just really pleased to have gone from not having a wrestler in the room to winning a conference title in three years."
Rancho Santiago--which is led by BoBo Laeyvo, who is second-ranked in the state in his 129-pound weight class--will play host to the Southern California Regional tournament Friday, starting at 10 a.m.
El Camino quarterback Dan Speltz was voted the offensive player of the year in the South Coast Conference this season by the coaches.
Speltz will lead El Camino (10-0), which is ranked third in the nation, against second-ranked Taft (9-0) in the second game of the PONY Bowl doubleheader Saturday at 7 p.m. at Orange Coast College.
Saddleback (8-2) will play Cerritos (6-3-1) in the 1 p.m. game.
Golden West placed four linemen on the first team. Center Vince Bonham was picked to the first team for the second consecutive season, and teammates Glenn Parker (tackle), Rob Flory (tackle) and Kevin Fairman (guard) also made the first team.
Fullerton's Andy Greer (running back) and Craig Ross (kicker) made the first team for Fullerton.
Golden West had three defensive players and Fullerton two on the first team. Herman Baine (line), Trent Brummett (linebacker) and Mike Babb (defensive back) made it for Golden West, and Art Temple (line) and Steve Skralak (defensive back) made it for Fullerton.
Orange Coast placed four players and Golden West two on the first team of the All-South Coast Conference women's soccer team.
Renee Barterky, Kim Doleman, Mitch Nadon and Jenell Rogers made it for Orange Coast, which won the conference but lost in the Southern California championships to El Camino. The South Coast is the only women's soccer conference in the state.
Connie Knapp and Kelly Krebs made it for Golden West.
Community College Notes
Orange Coast College will be host to the 17th annual Miles Eaton men's basketball tournament starting Thursday. Defending champion OCC will play East Los Angeles at 6 p.m. In other first-round matchups: MiraCosta plays Long Beach at 2 p.m., Mt. San Jacinto plays Mt. San Antonio at 4 p.m. and Santa Barbara plays Imperial Valley at 8 p.m. The championship is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. . . . The Golden West men's basketball team is off to a 4-0 start this season. Golden West was 4-23 last season.