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Valley / Ventura County Sports | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Longtime Rivals Go to the Mat on Tough Decisions


If there were a World Wrestling Federation for teenagers, Travis Johnson of Notre Dame High and Will Svitek of Newbury Park would be charter members.

They'll pass any eyeball test with their jumbo size and chiseled bodies.

Their speed and athleticism has placed them in the middle of a recruiting frenzy among college football coaches.

"It's a lot of stress," Johnson said.

"I'm getting stuff in the mail every day: 'Can you come to our camp? Can you come to our camp?' " Svitek said.

Johnson, 6 feet 4 and 255 pounds, is a ferocious defensive tackle who runs 40 yards in 4.5 seconds.

Svitek, 6-5 1/2 and 235 pounds, is a tight end who created quite a stir among recruiters Wednesday when he clocked 4.58 seconds over 40 yards at the Ventura County combine.

There are tailbacks who don't run as fast as these giants.

On Saturday, Svitek and Johnson were flinging 12-pound shots at the Southern Section track and field championships in Norwalk. Svitek won the Division II championship with a career-best 57-6. Johnson won the Division III championship with an effort of 57-2 1/2.

Both are 17-year-old juniors being pursued by big-time universities. Svitek, an age-group champion in the decathlon, is expected to decide between UCLA and Stanford. Johnson is looking at UCLA, USC, Florida State, Michigan and California.

The two have been competing against each other in basketball, football and track since junior high.

"Will has beaten me twice my whole life," Johnson said.

Countered Svitek: "I won't let him beat me because he'll talk about it forever."

Johnson isn't shy about expressing himself. He insists Notre Dame is going to win the Division III football championship next season, and he doesn't care if defending champion Hart stands in the way.

"That's going to be no problem," he said.

Newbury Park is finally inserting a tight end in its offensive scheme during spring practice to take advantage of Svitek's skills.

But if Svitek gets any faster, he might force Coach George Hurley to switch him to tailback.

"I'd love to play running back," Svitek said. "I've been working hard on my speed. Speed is for everything."

As for what would happen if Johnson and Svitek engaged in a wrestling match, Johnson said, "I'd win--Will is easy to move."

Countered Svitek: "I'd be too quick for him."

One thing everybody can agree on: Johnson would make a great wrestling villain.

"He's loud," track Coach Joe McNab of Notre Dame said. "He'd be like the Undertaker."


In the name of school spirit, pole vaulter Nicholas Demetrion of Monroe bleached his hair bright red last week, making him as visible as a neon sign.

"My mom wanted to know when it was going to go away and my dad laughed," Demetrion said.

Coach Dean Balzarett said, "I thought he had a wig on. He's a wrestler and a pole vaulter and has been landing on his head too much."

Demetrion loves the attention and deserves it.

In four consecutive meets, he exceeded his career best in the pole vault. He cleared 12-6, 13-0, 13-6 and 14-1. It should be an entertaining battle for the City Section pole vault title between Demetrion and Shane Hackett of Verdugo Hills on Thursday at Birmingham. . . .

Rod Stillwell, former baseball great at Thousand Oaks, is returning to his alma mater in the fall to teach math. Stillwell has been a highly successful baseball coach at Serrano High in Phelan. His wife, Valerie, also will teach at Thousand Oaks. School officials hope to get Stillwell involved in coaching. . . .

Carl Ferrill, a former coach at New Mexico Highlands, Chaffey, San Bernardino and West Hills, is a top candidate to replace Gary Barlow as football coach at Valley College. . . .

It's time for the City Section to no longer allow coaches directly involved in the playoffs to participate in seeding meetings. They have a conflict of interest in trying to get the best possible placement for their teams. This week's baseball seeding meeting was an example of everything that can go wrong when the committee is made up of coaches from league championship teams.

The bottom line was if you complained loud enough and long enough, coaches on the seeding committee gave in. Strength of schedule--not emotion--is supposed to be the determining factor in deciding seedings. Changes need to be made to restore credibility. . . .

Calabasas ought to hold a pep rally to salute junior pitchers Amy Rosson and Tony Sulser, who helped the Coyotes upset Westlake in softball and baseball playoff games on Friday. Maybe the Frontier League isn't so weak after all. . . .

El Camino Real will play Carson at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday at UCLA for the City Championship in softball. Somehow, someway, All-City shortstop Cara Blumfield of El Camino Real will deliver victory in her final high school game. . . .

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