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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Tenacious Speakman Has Come a Long Way

High school wrestling: Rio Mesa senior survived rough start in prep career to become state qualifier.

March 03, 2000|DANNY SCHUMACHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — Spike Gonzalez gave Scott Speakman a daily beating.

Gonzalez was meaner, tougher and stronger in 1997, and routinely tossed around younger teammates during wrestling practice at Rio Mesa High.

Speakman, then a freshman wrestling at 112 pounds, was the preferred afternoon snack.

"He worked me in practice," Speakman said. "He was one of the better wrestlers and I think he thought it was a good way for him to let out some energy."

Speakman, now a senior competing at 140 pounds, isn't a pushover anymore. His spirit survived the grueling test provided by Gonzalez.

Today he'll compete in the state championships at University of the Pacific in Stockton. The meet concludes Saturday.

Three years ago, Speakman provided few clues that he was a potential state qualifier. He didn't even know if he wanted to stick with the sport.

Speakman was 7-20 as a freshman and the daily face-plants by Gonzalez were discouraging. But that frustrating season gave Speakman internal resolve and his first hint of success.

At the Channel League finals, Speakman surprisingly took third and qualified for the Southern Section Division IV finals.

"He was wrestling a senior for third," Rio Mesa Coach Todd Stoke said. "You could just see the senior losing his edge and Scott didn't. It was simply Scott's willingness, his grittiness and his determination."

Speakman, who is 50-7 this season, has proven he can handle adversity.

He rarely starts fast during a match and usually trails by the end of the first period, keeping Stoke on the edge of his seat.

Two weeks ago at the Division IV tournament, Speakman tested the stress levels of his supporters by falling behind, 8-0, to Raul Ramirez of Los Alamitos. He rallied for a second-round pin.

In the semifinals, Speakman overcame a four-point deficit to win an 11-9 decision over Montclair's William Arreola.

Only in the championship match did Speakman break from routine. He pinned top-seeded Jonathan Garza of St. John Bosco in 1:03.

"A lot of guys get gassed out," Speakman said. "The third period is usually where I do my best. Even in matches I win easily, [my opponents] usually get the first takedown."

However, he could probably use a fast start today in his first-round match at the state championships. His opponent, Central Coast champion Raul Alvarez of Gilroy, is ranked No. 3 in the state.

Alvarez and Speakman tangled last season, with Alvarez winning a high-scoring decision.

Unlike many wrestlers, Speakman chooses not to compete in freestyle tournaments. Instead, he keeps busy by playing volleyball for Rio Mesa and participating in the school's choir and cheerleading squad.

He is not shy about expressing his opinion.

After Rio Mesa lost to Camarillo in a pivotal Pacific View South dual meet, Speakman didn't hesitate to say his team had wrestled poorly and he was displeased with Camarillo Coach Ron Wilson's decision to juggle his lineup.

Speakman had wanted to wrestle Isaac Medina but was matched against an opponent he pinned easily.

"Scott is a polite and nice kid, but he does have his own ideas," Stoke said. "He does have opinions. but I don't always agree with Scott's opinions."

Stoke said he constantly pushes for Speakman to gain momentum earlier in matches. But Speakman has become accustomed to his come-from-behind style.

"Coach thinks I don't practice hard enough," Speakman said. "I can kind of turn it on and off, and Stoke says that's not normal for most guys."

Although Speakman didn't wrestle before high school, his family was familiar with the sport.

His grandfather, Bob Arbon, coached wrestling at Hueneme High and his uncle, Paul Arbon, was an All-American at Moorpark College.

Speakman, who plans to attend Brigham Young or Ricks College in Idaho for a year before going on a mission for his Mormon church, is a Boy Scout.

He helps run food drives for the homeless and provides service to the elderly, helping with household chores.

Stoke had a hunch Speakman would have a breakout season this year, so he beefed up his tournament schedule in an attempt to test his star in early matches.

Rio Mesa competed in the prestigious Reno tournament in December and the Spartans hosted a tournament that featured some of the best programs in the West.

Speakman, who placed no lower than fourth in any tournament this season, was ready.

"At Reno he was struggling with making weight," Stoke said. "He lost to a Nevada state champ and struggled in the match. But the next day he made weight and he won five matches in a row, three by pin. He won five in a row, bam, bam, bam, at a tournament that had 89 teams. That's the point where I thought that this guy has a chance to do really well."

His old tormentor, Gonzalez, probably would not stand a chance now.

"I wasn't really a big, macho guy," Speakman said. "I was skinny, wimpy and intimidated my freshman year. But I'm glad I stuck with it."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

STATE QUALIFIERS

*--*

Wrestler School Wt Yr Rec Josh Berg El Camino Real 103 Sr. 30-5 Joseph Michel San Fernando 112 Jr. 21-3 Edward Lemus El Camino Real 119 Sr. 40-2 Jason Rico San Fernando 125 Sr. 19-5 Ryan Umali El Camino Real 130 Sr. 33-9 Scott Speakman Rio Mesa 140 Sr. 50-7 Moshe Levi El Camino Real 140 Sr. 22-2 Aaron Wyner El Camino Real 152 Sr. 23-15 Willy German San Fernando 160 So. 28-3 Andreik De Leon El Camino Real 171 Jr. 29-7 Chris Rueckert Royal 171 Sr. 44-4 Jamar Cargo El Camino Real 189 Sr. 38-5 Arthur Bryan Monroe 215 Sr. 43-1 Ken Enriquez San Fernando HW Sr. 15-7

*--*

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