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Moreno Valley Resumes Season as Coach Battles Cancer

January 21, 2002

After a brief break, Moreno Valley has resumed wrestling, but that doesn't make the season any easier to cope with.

Coach Raul Huerta unexpectedly resigned his position last week because he needs to undergo treatment for colon cancer. The Vikings didn't have an assistant coach qualified to take over, so they temporarily put the season on hold.

Phillip Peeples, a counselor at the school, stepped up to coach and Moreno Valley continued its season Jan. 11 at the Riverside County championships after missing one match.

Huerta, who was in the hospital several days, is home resting, Athletic Director Eric Lindner said. Lindner doesn't expect Huerta will return next season, either.

"It's going to be a long road for Raul," Lindner said. "But he's a tough guy and if anyone can get through this, it's him."

Huerta, 27, was diagnosed with the disease last season and before this season began he declared himself cancer-free. But the cancer flared up again and sent him back to the hospital. He was voted Riverside County coach of the year last week at the Riverside County Championships.

Last season, in addition to finding out Huerta had cancer, Moreno Valley also had to cope with the death of assistant coach Mike Matthews, who succumbed to pneumonia.

Seeing triple: Anyone wrestling against Garden Grove might want to think twice, or three times, before turning his back between periods of the lighter weight matches. The Argonauts might have a trick or three up their sleeves.

William, David and Eric Leyva are triplets wrestling on the varsity team. William wrestles at 112 pounds while David and Eric switch off at 103 pounds, often wrestling off against one another in practice to see who gets the nod for the next match.

But it's not as if the three seniors would need to pull a fast one on opponents. The Leyvas are doing fine by themselves. William has won two tournaments this year and has two other top-four finishes. Eric has two firsts and a third and David also has a first.

"I've had them on the team for three years and I still have a hard time telling them apart," Garden Grove Coach Jose Orozco said. "I just call them by their last name and then when one of them answers, I'm like 'OK, which one are you?'"

Orozco said that when the triplets started, they were scrawny 80-pounders, but he could see they had potential.

"Anyone who has a brother likes to wrestle them," Orozco said. "With these guys, they have built-in partners. They came here with tons of wrestling experience even though they had never done it competitively."

They have developed, Orozco said, and all three rank among the top six point-scorers on the team.

"We're probably not talking state championship-quality wrestlers, but they are pretty good," Orozco said.

Streak ends: When Palmdale Highland lost to Littlerock last week, it ended a 46-match Golden League winning streak for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs, in fact, had not lost a Golden League match since the school opened in 1991. What made it hard for them to swallow was the way they lost.

The Bulldogs held a 28-23 lead going into the final match, but lost, 29-28, when their 103-pound wrestler was pinned. Highland defeated Littlerock, 43-32, in a tournament earlier this year.

"It's disappointing, but those things happen," Highland Coach Mike Young said. "A few matches didn't go our way this time."

Peter Yoon

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