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High School / Playoffs

Gonzalez Finished Wrestling With Himself

State meet: After nearly losing his way, undefeated 189-pounder from Ventura seeks title.

March 07, 1997|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

STOCKTON — Forty-five wrestlers have tried in vain to defeat Cristobal Gonzalez of Ventura High this season.

Gonzalez even gave it a shot and failed.

Fortunately Gonzalez was able to prevent self-destruction and the wayward wrestler found his way to Stockton, where he will compete today and Saturday in the state wrestling finals at University of the Pacific.

Gonzalez, who raised eyebrows by qualifying for the state meet last season as a sophomore, enters the tournament ranked third in the state at 189 pounds after winning Southern Section Division I and Masters championships. Among 24 entrants from the region, only Gonzalez is undefeated.

"His forte is how quick he is on his feet," Ventura Coach Paul Clementi said. "He can take down anybody in the state."

An indicator of Gonzalez's mettle came in December when he won the Sierra Nevada tournament in Reno. The 82-team tournament included some of the best wrestlers in California and Nevada.

Unlike last season, when he entered the state meet with bruised ribs, Gonzalez is healthy at a time when many wrestlers are bandaged. Aggressive, well-conditioned and cocksure, Gonzalez has a chance to become the first state champion from the region since Keith Harvey of Newbury Park and Miller Aupiu of Channel Islands in 1985.

Not that it's any big deal.

"I don't know why I'm so good," Gonzalez said. "It's just natural ability, I guess."

Gonzalez has made success look easy. But his nonchalance nearly caused his downfall.

Bored at midseason, he began skipping practice. He alienated himself from teammates, cut classes and teetered on the verge of becoming academically ineligible.

Clementi, frustrated by attempts to counsel his best wrestler, considered cutting Gonzalez and was reluctant to mention his name when discussing the team.

Gonzalez says he simply didn't care.

"I just didn't want to go to class," he said. "I was goofing off, being a punk to all my friends. I live right down the street, so if it's a hassle. . . . "

Joe Martinez, a junior who will compete in the state finals at 215 pounds, said Gonzalez acted aloof.

"With the things that were going on, the team, basically, was fed up," Martinez said. "I don't think even the coaches expected him to still be around."

In a last-ditch attempt, Clementi suspended Gonzalez from competing in the Fountain Valley tournament in January. The move apparently made an impact.

"We really thought we were going to lose him," Clementi said. "He's a polite kid and he's respectful. But he's just one of those kids who likes to run. He decided he wanted to skip classes and practice. I've tried, his coaches tried and his teachers tried to show him what he stands to lose.

"We needed to get our point across and it really helped out the whole team. They knew Cristobal was our best."

For Gonzalez, the prospect of not wrestling was sobering. Admittedly never passionate about academics, Gonzalez "barely got by" on his midterm grades.

"I was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to wrestle anymore," he said. "I felt left out. I realized wrestling was important to me. I know scholarships depend on grades, but I think I can go to junior college somewhere.

"Right now, I just want to keep wrestling in my life somehow."

Clementi has been pleased with Gonzalez's participation in recent weeks.

"He's turned into more of a team player," the coach said. "He was showing Dustin Clocherty a move the other day. And now, he and Joe have become sparring partners."

Martinez jokingly remarked that he sees more of Gonzalez at school these days--in and out of the wrestling room.

"He's one of the guys who really got me into wrestling to begin with," Martinez said. "I'm glad he was able to come back."

* AT THE MEET: A look at the two dozen wrestlers from the region who will be vying for state titles. C13

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Going to the Mat

Wrestlers from the region who will be competing in the state championships today and Saturday at University of the Pacific in Stockton:

103 pounds

* Richard Aguirre (San Fernando), So., 21-12, City champion.

119

* Roland Aldabert (Highland), Sr., 61-6, Golden League champion.

* Joe Hernandez (San Fernando), Jr., 29-7, City champion.

125

* Isaac Campos (Chatsworth), Sr., 37-4, City champion.

130

* Dustin Clocherty (Ventura), Jr., 42-10, fourth at Southern Section Masters.

* Andy Moro (San Fernando), So., 22-6, City champion.

* Armando Torres (Newbury Park), Sr., 36-10, Marmonte League champion.

135

* Eddie Moro (San Fernando), So., 27-3, City champion.

140

* Hugo Monge (El Camino Real), Sr., 27-9, City champion.

145

* Francisco Jordan (El Camino Real), Sr., 35-4, City champion.

* Stuart Young (Highland), Jr., 65-8, Southern Section Division IV champion.

152

* David Amaya (El Camino Real), Sr., 34-3, City champion.

160

* Ray Torres (Royal), Sr., 46-3, Marmonte League champion, Southern Section Division II champion.

* Franky Valdez (Chatsworth), Jr., 36-1, City champion.

171

* Aaron Roepke (Granada Hills), Sr., 24-1, City champion.

189

* Cristobal Gonzalez (Ventura), Jr., 45-0, Channel League, Southern Section Division I and Masters champion.

* Melkon Melkonian (Granada Hills), Sr., 21-1, City champion.

* Charles Sandlin (Camarillo), Sr., 30-3, Southern Section Division II champion.

215

* Roger Neadeau (Channel Islands), Sr., 37-12, Marmonte League champion, sixth at Masters.

* Joe Martinez (Ventura), Jr., 50-6, second at Masters.

* Jacob Waasdorp (Quartz Hill), Sr., 50-4, Golden League champion, eighth at Masters.

Heavyweight

* Alex Luna (San Fernando), Sr., 25-3, City champion.

* Chad Troxler (Simi Valley), Jr., 42-5, Southern Section Division II champion, second at Masters.

* Joe Younan (Highland), Sr., 52-6, Channel League champion, eighth at Masters.

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