Rarely does a freshman have the skills and poise to crack the varsity starting lineup. Even rarer does one dominate the competition.
Which explains Coach Mike Young's reluctance before the season to trumpet the talents of wrestler John Garfinkel of Highland High. But Young can't keep the secret any longer.
Now, if only Garfinkel would feel comfortable expressing himself.
Garfinkel, a 112-pound freshman, has emerged as one of the region's best wrestlers on one of the region's best teams. Garfinkel improved to 49-5 by defeating Andres Bazan of Bell on Saturday for the championship of the San Fernando tournament. It was the fifth tournament title for Garfinkel, who moved to California from Iowa two years ago.
"I knew he'd be a good one," said Young, whose team is 28-0 after placing second last season in the Southern Section Division IV finals. "But a lot of times, some people say so-and-so is really good and you just want to wait until you see them on the mat."
Garfinkel has not disappointed. He has recorded 32 pins, and two of his victories have come against senior Adam Smith of Quartz Hill, including a double-overtime decision.
For Garfinkel, who began wrestling in third grade, virtually every match means squaring off against an older opponent. But he is not intimidated.
He is, however, bashful. The key to his success?
"I don't know," he said. "I guess I've just been good."