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NOTEBOOK : Victory Seldom Eludes Grasp of Bell Wrestlers


Bell High wrestling Coach Frank O'Connor doesn't have much to say about the tribulations of building a fledgling program. Mostly because his three-year-old program has yet to face any.

At the Feb. 27 City finals at El Camino Real High, Bell became the first team from outside the San Fernando Valley to win a City championship since Franklin in 1984. The Eagles have gone undefeated in Central League meets and compiled a 50-8 record over the past three seasons.

Bell crowned six individual champions, equaling a City record set by San Fernando in 1991. The Eagles sent 10 wrestlers to the finals, compiling 195 points to outdistance Canoga Park (181 1/2) and El Camino Real (151 1/2).

Bell's Jose Gonzalez (103-pound class), Charles Zabala (112), Rich Mendoza (130), Chris Crail (152), Frank Odorica (160) and Juan Alcala (171) each won their respective weight classes.

Arturo Plancarte (119), Ramses Ochoa (145), Jesus Orozco (189) and Aldolpho Padilla (heavyweight) also advanced to the final.

The champions in each of the 13-weight classes advanced to the state finals in Stockton this weekend.

Crail and Odorica improved to 25-4. Like many of their teammates, they never wrestled until becoming involved in the program.

"When we first started, we didn't know what to expect," Crail said.

Neither did O'Connor, an English teacher who guided Bell to a sixth-place finish in the team's first season and a third-place showing in last season's City meet.

"There was never any type of program at Bell, but the kids were real interested and we've had a lot of success right away," O'Connor said.

Track stars--The Cal State L.A. women's track and field team is No. 1 in the NCAA Division II indoor preseason rankings by Collegiate Track Weekly.

The Golden Eagles will compete in the indoor nationals Friday and Saturday at the University of South Dakota.

Cal State L.A. opened the season at the Skydome Invitational in Flagstaff, Ariz. The 1,600-meter relay team of Alisha Lopez, Debra Hamilton, Marsha Guialdo and Cheryl Porter qualified for the NCAA Division II indoor nationals.

Under first-year Coach Greg Ryan, Cal State L.A. returns All-Americans in four events from last year's team, which finished second nationally.

Brandi Gail is the defending Division II indoor champion in the shotput. Guialdo, a senior, is an All-American in the 55-meter hurdles and 55-meter dash. Howard, a sophomore, is an All-American at 200 meters.

One of the top newcomers is Janet Hill, a junior transfer from Odessa, Tex., who has the No. 2 all-time high school mark in the discus at 179 feet 11 inches.

Debra Hamilton, who will compete for the Golden Eagles in the 400- and 1,600-meter relays, is a junior transfer from Trade Tech who finished third at the community college state meet in the 400.

Alma mater matter--Roosevelt High girls' basketball Coach Lorenzo Garcia graduated from Cal State L.A. and Geri Montanio, a former Roosevelt assistant, is now an assistant women's coach at Cal State L.A.

Garcia, however, had no qualms about coaching against his alma mater in Cal Poly Pomona women's basketball team's recent game against Cal State L.A.

Garcia has helped as an instructor at summer basketball camps conducted by Pomona Coach Darlene May for the past two years. He was named an honorary coach by May for the game in recognition of his contributions.

With Roosevelt players on hand to lend support, Garcia sat on the Pomona bench and was involved with pregame and halftime talks.

"Cal State L.A. always has a place in my heart, but this was something I couldn't refuse," Garcia said. "I had a wonderful time."

His alma mater did not fare as well. Cal Poly Pomona won, 86-47.

Rodriguez signs--Ofilia Rodriguez of Roosevelt High has made a verbal commitment to play basketball at Cal Poly Pomona. The 6-foot-1 center helped the Roughriders advance to the City 3-A Division final two of the last three seasons.

Roosevelt rules--Denise Caudillo, a 5-foot-7 junior guard who averaged 25 points for the Roosevelt girls' basketball team, has been named the Eastern League's Most Valuable Player.

Her coach, Garcia, who helped guide Roosevelt to the league championship in its first season at the 4-A level, was named the league's Coach of the Year.

Liz Guevara of Roosevelt was selected to the league's first team, along with Fremont's Sheila Paige and Rochelle Davis and South Gate's Michelle Gonzalez and Letty Madrigal.

Fund-raiser--NFL Hall of Famer and former Raider Willie Brown will be a guest speaker at a fund-raiser for the Jordan High football program Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in the school library.

James Burt, head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Rev. James McKnight also will be guest speakers. Proceeds will be used to purchase equipment and supplies.

Information: (213) 567-0531.

Bite of the Bulldogs--The secret to the success of the Garfield boys' basketball team, winners of three consecutive Eastern Conference Titles, is Alex Gomez.

Gomez averaged 26 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs. Three weeks ago, he scored a career-high 44 against Jordan.

"I feel that Alex is the best player in the league," Coach Al Madrigal said.

Gary Chavez contributed to this report.

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