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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Hollis Tables Wrestling Career, Excels for Hart

November 29, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Tables are built to hold objects. At least that's what a normal person thinks.

Middle linebacker Kyle Hollis of Hart High is different. He sees a table and wants to smash it into two. That's what happens when you've grown up watching professional wrestling on cable television.

Hollis isn't just a fan of the World Wrestling Federation--he tells people if he had his wish, his college choice wouldn't be Harvard but the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy in Texas.

He had a Hulk Hogan doll by the time he was 3. He says his parents' 16th birthday present--tickets to the Royal Rumble at the Arrowhead Pond--was "the greatest day of my entire life."

Last summer, when he spotted an old table at the Hart practice field, he asked the coaches if he could have it.

"The next thing we know, he's crushing it in half," defensive coordinator Rick Herrington said. "It's always exciting when he's around."

Said Hollis: "Coach has a bunch of tables for me. After the season, I'm going to set up a little wrestling show."

Hollis plays football as if every down is a rumble. He's a 6-foot, 205-pound senior who emulates the cockiness and self-confidence of his WWF heroes. He sees them as indestructible, an attitude he brings to football.

"If you're going out there knowing you're going to win, it definitely helps you," he said. "[Pro wrestlers] always act like they're going to win the match. You have to go out there tough and ready to play."

Nicknamed "Hard Core," Hollis ranks second on Hart with 76 tackles. He calls the defensive signals and his intensity inspires teammates.

"I have to pump my team up because I feel I have to be the leader," he said. "I feel I have to go crazy. If they see me getting excited, they're going to get excited, and you play better with emotion."

Hollis is trying to win his third consecutive Southern Section championship ring with Hart, which plays St. Francis on Friday night at College of the Canyons in a Division III semifinal.

No one needs to motivate Hollis or his teammates. They remember St. Francis players celebrating after beating the Indians twice in summer passing competitions.

"The way they celebrated was like they beat us in the semifinals," he said. "We remember having to drive home watching them celebrate. It's definitely going to be in our minds."

Hollis keeps trying to recruit teammates to engage him in wrestling exhibitions, but quarterback Kyle Matter has declined.

"He wanted to have a big wrestling match in his backyard with people jumping off his roof," Matter said. "I decided to stay clear of that."

If Hart wins another Division III title, Hollis already knows how he's going to celebrate.

"I have this overhang in my backyard where I'm going to jump off and break through a table," he said.

If anyone in the Santa Clarita Valley needs to get rid of an old table, give Hollis a call.

*

The sight of 315-pound Bobby Garafolo running 66 yards for a touchdown on a fumblerooski play Friday against Antelope Valley stunned St. Francis fans. Who could have imagined Garafolo scoring a touchdown, let alone outrunning a defensive back with a 20-yard head start?

"I was holding my breath," Coach Jim Bonds said.

Added Garafolo: "I ran as fast as my legs could carry me. After I got the touchdown, I didn't feel real. It was amazing. It was one of the coolest things I've done in my life."

Garafolo usually plays tackle but was switched to guard so the ball could be placed under his legs after the snap. Nearly everyone was chasing running back Matt Milton while Garafolo waited to take off toward the end zone.

"The coach had some confidence in me to call that play," he said.

Instead of Garafolo offering the usual hug to teammates after a touchdown, players were hugging him, and he's no small guy to hug or lift off the ground.

"I went for the hug and got about halfway around his gut," Bonds said.

Garafolo is one of St. Francis' most respected student-athletes. He plays guitar and is a member of the academic decathlon team. He has a 3.4 grade-point average and is receiving recruiting interest from USC and Colorado State.

He was raised by a single parent, his mother, Irene.

"She's taught me to follow the rules and follow authority," he said. "She's the one who's made me the way I am."

*

Jason Jenkins, a 6-2 sophomore linebacker, had two sacks for Crescenta Valley against Hart. He played on the junior varsity until being promoted for the playoffs three weeks ago.

He is the younger brother of James Jenkins, a Crescenta Valley basketball and swimming standout and projects as a top football player. . . .

Agoura's surprising appearance in the Division IV football semifinals is considered a fluke by some observers, especially after the Chargers finished fourth in the Marmonte League. But give the Chargers credit for playing well in the playoffs. Their future appears bright. Agoura's freshman team was 9-1 and defeated previously unbeaten Westlake.

"We're excited," Coach Charlie Wegher said. . . .

One of the best eighth-grade running backs is Aaron Ware of Malibu, brother of Loyola quarterback Matt Ware. He just turned 14 and is 5-10 with excellent speed. . . .

Two of Loyola's top players live in the Valley. Defensive back Greg Kavulich lives in West Hills and sophomore running back Rafael Rice, who has rushed for 1,308 yards, is a Burbank resident. . . .

Daniel Clements of Taft finished 16th at the state Division I cross-country championships Saturday in Fresno, clocking 15:48.

*

Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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