By Steve Fryer
Photo Credit: Paul Rodriguez
The Register is counting down the top 10 teams in the Orange County football preseason top 10. Today we preview No. 5 Servite.
Being a two-sport athlete in the Trinity League is a difficult challenge.
For Servite senior Tristen Wilson, challenge accepted.
Wilson (6-2, 190) is a returning All-Trinity League defensive end for the Friars football team. He also is a champion wrestler at Servite.
This past winter Wilson was CIF-Southern Section Central Division champion at 195 pounds. He finished second at the CIF-SS Masters Meet and was fourth in the CIF State championships.
Wilson uses his wrestling skills on the football field, especially when it comes to the hand-to-hand combat common to interior line play.
“The big thing in wrestling is hand control,” Wilson said at the Trinity League football media day earlier this month. “On the defensive line hand control helps you immensely. At the end of the day if you don’t have hand control the other guy on you is going to lock you up, and that guy is going to be 315 pounds or however big they are.”
That’s another challenge for Wilson, his 190 pounds vs. 315 pounds “or however big they are” in the Trinity League. Servite coach Troy Thomas has seen Wilson, All-Trinity League second team last season, overcome that challenge.
“Tristen’s an undersized guy for our league,” Thomas said. “But because he’s so tough he’s going to make plays. He’s a typical Servite guy, the way he plays with heart and how hard-working he is.”
Servite last season finished 4-5 overall and was 1-4 in the Trinity League. The Friars, whose league win was over Santa Margarita, did not qualify for the playoffs.
Wilson, a member of the Servite football program’s Curia, a small group of team leaders, sees a better Friars team this season, physically and mentally.
“We really feel like a family,” Wilson said. “There’s a huge difference from last year to this year, how we’ve really rallied together and matured. And we’re a lot stronger in comparison to last year.”
Thomas, starting the second year of his second stint as Servite’s coach, also believes improvement will be evident.
“We have a lot of different guys that can produce,” Thomas said. “We’re not relying on one or two guys. We have a lot of kids who can make plays on both sides of the ball.”
Senior running back Derek Fuentes (5-9, 175) was All-Trinity League first team last season. Senior offensive tackle Nick Martinez (6-5, 285), who committed to Kansas, was all-league second team, as was senior two-way lineman Jeminai Leuta-Ulu (6-4, 335). Another offensive lineman, Ender Aguilar (6-5, 255), committed to Cal.
Sophomore quarterback Noah Fifita (5-10, 175) made several accurate and smart throws at this summer’s Battle at the Beach passing tournament at Edison High.
Junior defensive back Noah Avinger (5-11, 160), all-league second team in 2018, might see more action at receiver this season. Senior tight end Jake Overman (6-4, 235) has offers from several colleges, including Arizona, Cal and Oregon State.
With Avinger in the defensive backfield are two all-league first-team returnees, seniors Zedakiah Centers (5-10, 160) and Karrington Dennis (5-8, 170). Dennis is the last of four brothers to play football at Servite.
“We’re taking the right steps,” Thomas said of the school’s football program. “These guys have been committed since day one.”