The stage is set for a rematch between the state's top junior college wrestling teams when Fresno City visits Moorpark for a nonconference dual meet tonight at 7:30.
Fresno, a perennial power, is ranked No. 1 in the state. Moorpark is ranked No. 2. The balance of power, however, might have shifted last season when Moorpark placed first and Fresno was third in the state finals at West Valley College in Saratoga.
The state title was Moorpark's third since 1990 and first under Coach Paul Keysaw, 30, a former NCAA champion who succeeded longtime coach John Keever in 1996. Tonight's meet marks the home opener for the Raiders (5-0), who placed first in the San Bernardino Valley dual-meet tournament and won a nonconference dual meet against Golden West.
Moorpark has not defeated Fresno during Keysaw's tenure, the only team the Raiders are winless against. That might account for preseason rankings.
"They've always been a powerhouse," Keysaw said. "We're excited to be wrestling them again."
Moorpark's lineup is depleted by injuries. Sophomores Juan Roman (133 pounds) and Anthony Vitale (heavyweight) and freshman Joey Guardardo (125) from Alemany High are sidelined indefinitely because of knee injuries.
Roman recently underwent surgery on the same knee that prevented him from competing in the Southern Section Masters Meet two years ago as a senior at Channel Islands High. Roman, a former Southern Section Division II champion, might return in a month, Keysaw said.
Moorpark endured a heavy loss before the season when Cristobal Gonzalez, state champion at 189 pounds last season at Ventura High, opted to attend Lassen College in Susanville.
"Top to bottom, with all the guys we have out of the lineup, we're not at our best," Keysaw said.
Moorpark's Chuck Sandlin, the Raiders' only returning wrestler to win a state championship last season, is 5-0. Freshman Dustin Clocherty from Ventura, fourth in the state last season, is 4-0.
The grind continues this week for Moorpark. The Raiders wrestle at Palomar, ranked No. 3 in the state, on Friday at 6 p.m.
Who would have figured the fast start by the Ventura College football team?
At 3-0, the Pirates (1-9 last season) are the region's only undefeated team and only one in the state rankings. Ventura is ranked 14th in the state and seventh in Southern California. Valley (1-1) is ranked 15th in Southern California.
"We just had ourselves the best practice Tuesday," Ventura Coach Terry Morris said. "Everyone out here is fired up."
Quarterback Brian Shubin, a 1995 graduate of Westlake High, has emerged as Ventura's starter after transferring from Texas Christian. Shubin was selected Western State Conference player of the week after completing 14 of 21 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in a 26-16 victory over Harbor.
Running back Travis Rogers, who rushed for 153 yards against Harbor, is the WSC's rushing leader with 558 yards.
Cal Lutheran (2-2) intercepted only two passes in its first three games, but a pair of opportunistic interceptions helped secure a 26-13 victory against San Diego on Saturday.
San Diego pulled to within 9-7 with a touchdown late in the second quarter and began the third period by driving 38 yards to the Kingsmen 42-yard line. But linebacker Jake Halas stepped in front of a Torero receiver in the flat, intercepted a pass by Michael Stadler and returned it 42 yards. Dorian Stitt scored three plays later on a 21-yard run and Cal Lutheran led, 16-7.
The second interception nailed down the victory. With Cal Lutheran leading, 19-13, and two minutes to play, San Diego moved to the Cal Lutheran 44 when cornerback Sean McGaughey made a diving interception.
Cal Lutheran nearly ran out the clock, scoring with 11 seconds to play on a 43-yard run by Fredrik Nanhed.
"Both of those picks were huge plays," Kingsmen Coach Scott Squires said. "We were aggressive defensively and we overcame our own turnovers by creating ones."
The Kingsmen have a bye this week, giving Squires another week to ponder his team's situation at quarterback.
Zack Hernandez, a senior and the starter for two seasons, is regarded as a strong leader and intelligent technician. But he has completed only 47.7% of his passes and compiled just 560 yards in 109 passes.
In the first half against San Diego, Squires replaced Hernandez with sophomore Nick Odenath, who led the team to its first touchdown, scoring on a nine-yard run.
Odenath ran the speed option aggressively, gaining 49 yards in 11 carries. On the season, Hernandez has rushed for 22 yards in 26 carries.
Odenath, a left-handed passer from Orange Lutheran High, completed six of seven passes for 51 yards Saturday, although he did have a pass intercepted late in the game when the Kingsmen were protecting a lead.
"Nick is inexperienced, but he did bring some things to the game that were exciting," Squires said. "Zack is our quarterback. We have great confidence in him."
Last season, Hernandez started seven games and completed 62.3% of his passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Staff writers Steve Henson and Vince Kowalick contributed to this notes column.