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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING

Eckberg Tries to Prove He's Not a One-Day Wonder for Ventura

February 23, 2001|DANNY SCHUMACHER

According to his coaches, Tim Eckberg of Ventura High always has had raw ability and usually has been stronger than his opponents.

But technical flaws and frequent attempts to out-muscle opponents have limited Eckberg's success.

Until last week.

Putting together the best day of wrestling in his career, Eckberg won four matches in the losers' bracket and finished third in the 152-pound weight class at the Southern Section Division I championships.

"He's just had some trouble when it comes to the big match," said Paul Clementi, Ventura's co-coach. "He really looked unbeatable on Saturday. It's all coming together for him and it's great that it's coming together now."

Eckberg, a senior, qualified for the Southern Section Masters meet today at 4 p.m. at Fountain Valley High. The competition ends Saturday.

Eckberg (27-9) dominated his opponents in the final day of competition last week, winning four decisions by a combined 49-9. He defeated Mark Hales of Orange El Modena, 7-2, in the third-place match.

Hales defeated Eckberg, 7-2, the day before in the quarterfinals.

"It was awesome," Eckberg said. "I was really happy that I got the chance to wrestle somebody I had already lost to. I rebounded well. I wanted to place badly and I just got on a roll."

Clementi has waited patiently for Eckberg to fulfill his promise. Despite no experience in the sport before high school, Eckberg had enough natural ability to join the varsity as a sophomore.

Eckberg lost most of that season after breaking an ankle skateboarding in a friend's backyard.

"I went up for a little back-side air, which was kind of dumb," Eckberg said. "I remember hearing [the ankle] snap and thinking that my coach is really going to yell at me. I think that's the maddest I've ever seen [Clementi]."

Clementi has forbidden Eckberg from skateboarding or snowboarding during the wrestling season even though teammates Joaquin Real and Jesse Real compete in rodeos.

"I come down harder on skateboarders," Clementi said.

*

Ventura, ranked No. 1 in the region by The Times all season, qualified four wrestlers besides Eckberg for the Masters meet, a qualifier for the state championships next week in Stockton.

The top eight finishers in each weight class advance.

Bobby Taylor (171 pounds), Justin Rivera (160) and Joaquin Real (140) are returning masters qualifiers, and Mike Kaleiohi (189) is making his first appearance in the meet.

Taylor, who placed third last week, has struggled at times this season. Passivity caused Taylor to lose some close matches earlier this season.

"When he shoots, he's very tough to beat," Clementi said. "When he doesn't shoot, he's very average, and he knows that. But I think he gets up for the bigger matches."

*

Ralph Garcia (189 pounds) of Camarillo could face Shawn Southern of Glendora again this weekend.

It would be a rematch of the Division IV final last week and the fourth meeting between the two this season. Each encounter has been a brawl marred with unsportsmanlike and roughing penalties.

Last week, Southern was penalized twice, once for head-butting and another for an illegal cross-face.

Garcia, 41-3 and ranked No. 8 in the state by wrestlereport.com, survived for an 8-1 decision.

"It's always a street fight with those two," Camarillo Coach Ron Wilson said. "Ralph was trying to open up his offense, but it's hard to with [Southern's] style of wrestling."

Garcia will have plenty of tough battles this weekend. The division features four of the top eight wrestlers in California.

Top-ranked Conan Williams of Santa Ana Calvary Chapel finished fourth in the state at 171 pounds last season.

*

San Fernando finally overtook longtime nemesis El Camino Real on Saturday, winning its first City Section title since 1991.

The Tigers were aided by surprising performances from Birmingham and Granada Hills. Fritz Javellana (21-6) won the 152-pound title, leading Granada Hills to third place.

Birmingham finished fourth, with Andranik Darmandzhyan (130), Vlad Kochiev (135) and Mike Kushmatsian (heavyweight) winning titles. Kochiev is a freshman and Darmandzhyan is a sophomore.

San Fernando did plenty on its own, qualifying eight wrestlers for the finals and winning five weight classes.

*

For the first time the Masters meet will be a double-elimination format.

In the past, competitors who lost their first match could only get a second if their first-round opponents won in the second round.

"We have a tournament that's a state qualifier so why not [make it double elimination]?" Clementi said. "It should be interesting."

*

Highland won its ninth consecutive Golden League title this season but failed for the first time since 1992 to have an individual competitor place in the top six at the Division IV championships.

The rest of the league also fared poorly, failing to advance a wrestler to the Masters meet.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

State Hopefuls

Competitors from the region this week at the Masters meet, where top eight finishers in each division advance to state champion-

ships:

Caleb Bautista

Rio Mesa, 125 class

Chris Davis

Rio Mesa, 189

Tim Eckberg

Ventura, 152

Mike Kaleiohi

Ventura, 189

Dan Kunkes

Simi Valley, HWT

Lee Martin

Royal, 189

Jake Nishimura

Camarillo, 103

Justin Patterson

Newbury Park, 171

Wilson Pollack

Harv.-Westlake, 160

Joaquin Real

Ventura, 140

Justin Rivera

Ventura, 160

Bobby Taylor

Ventura, 171

Daniel Valencia

Camarillo, 119

Will Velasquez

Thousand Oaks, 152

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