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Wrestlers of the year compete at nationals

April 14, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

When Brawley Union High School's Hector Carrillo and Imperial High's A.J. Smith set out to compete in the national high school wrestling tournament at the University of Delaware in Newark, expectations were high.

Both seniors hoped on possibly placing in the top seven in their weight classes.

Things didn't turn out as hoped.

Going into the event relatively blind and having not competed in the national tournament previously, both finished below expectations at 0-2.

While the final outcome wasn't what they wanted, the entire experience of competing was one they won't soon forget.

"The nationals was a very tough tournament," said the 17-year-old Carrillo, who competed in the 142-pound division. "But it was a good experience just going. Not just the wrestling, the whole thing was a good overall experience."

Part of that experience was a trip to Philadelphia, where they visited Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell.

On the wrestling end, Carrillo lost his first match to a top-ranked wrestler from Montana by majority decision. He then narrowly fell to a Florida wrestler 8-6 in his second match.

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"The guys there were a lot bigger. There were some guys who qualified at a higher weight, but then dropped weight to wrestle in lower divisions," said Carrillo, who finished the year with a 56-13 record. "As far as the competition being as good as it was, I wasn't surprised at all. But I went in there and tried to the best I could."

Smith got pinned in his first match and lost in overtime in his second. Smith had two byes, one in the first round and another in the consolation round, so despite going 0-2, Smith finished in the top 35 among 60 wrestlers in the 154-pound division.

Said Imperial coach Pete Martinez: "I thought both of them went after it. But it was a tough tournament. It definitely was a lot tougher than state. Physically, the guys looked bigger.

"But you just never know about something like that. It makes it tougher to get ready for something like that because you don't know what to expect."

Not knowing what to expect worked against every wrestler, but Brawley coach Keith Smith said what separated the champions was their ability to adjust and adapt to different wrestling styles.

One thing Carrillo pointed to as working against him was his lack of aggressiveness, which his coach thought was a part of the adaptation process.

"I wasn't as aggressive as I should've been. If I could do it again, I would be a lot more aggressive," Carrillo said.

While it was a learning experience for Carrillo and A.J. Smith, it was an experience for the coaches to take back to their teams to prepare for the coming years.

Said Keith Smith: "When I was there I was taking some notes on things to work on and what to do because I also learned some things as a coach."

What Keith Smith pointed to were overall preparation, building wrestlers' physical strength and competing in more national events.

"If we can work on those things I think we have a good chance at sending some guys back next year," said Smith. "Everybody's got the potential as long as they're willing to work hard at it. I hope they do because I want to go back."

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