By Steve Fryer
Wrestling is an individualistic team sport.
It has individual rankings and championships and team rankings and championships. The team benefits from how good the individuals are – even those individuals who might never get on the mat during a meet.
Servite wrestler Teddy Okada appreciates those guys who are training partners, the guys who perhaps won't compete in a meet all season. He used to be one of them.
Okada spent his freshman year as a training partner for Liam Cronin. Cronin was pretty good at Servite; he was a two-time Orange County wrestler of the year and twice was a CIF State finalist.
"We have a lot of good training partners," said Okada, a senior who is ranked No. 7 in the state by TheCaliforniaWrestler.com at 138 pounds. "They keep us sharp and focused."
Servite is focused on winning CIF-Southern Section and state championships and might have the talent and depth to reach those goals.
"We have a very solid group of individuals," said Servite coach Alan Clinton. "These guys have been in the program a long time and worked their way up the food chain."
Clinton has coached teams to 21 CIF-SS team championships. He is tied for most CIF-SS wrestling championships with Scott Glabb, who retired after this past season with 21 CIF-SS titles at Santa Ana. Clinton has coached at El Modena and Servite.
Servite, No. 1 in the Orange County Wrestling Coaches Association top 10, showed its mettle in its first match of the season. The Friars beat No. 2 Villa Park 42-27 in a nonleague dual at Servite late last month.
"Our kids were well-prepared and hungry for the competition," Clinton said.
The Friars have not let up. They won the Jimmy Hamada Classic this past weekend at La Costa Canyon High where they bested Nevada's top team, Green Valley. Okada won his weight class, beating Laguna Hills' Steven Kroesen in the finals. Servite senior Daniel Magana was runner-up at 147 and the Friars junior Valor Buck was runner-up at 160.
Servite senior Andrew Silvia, third in the Hamada event, is ranked No. 12 in California at 113 pounds. Friars junior Josh Medina is No. 9 at 126.
"Servite definitely has a good team," said Esperanza coach Christian Holiday. "They've got someone tough at every weight."
Teddy and his brother Roy Okada, also an accomplished Servite wrestler at 154 pounds, are the sons of Servite assistant coach Tony Okada who was O.C. wrestler of the year in the early 1990s at Savanna and competed in the Olympics in judo.
Teddy said what he and Roy have learned most from their father is the psychological aspect of wrestling.
"He taught me that your mentality is more important than anything else you're going to do," Teddy Okada said. "If you don't have the right mentality you won't win."
And having a good training partner can help, too, as Teddy Okada found out a couple of years ago.
NEW CIF-SS FORMAT
The CIF-SS Team Dual championships this season will have six divisions organized by competitive equity instead of by geography as the section's team dual championships had in the past.
The method for placing leagues in divisions is by adding up the number of CIF-SS Masters qualifiers of each over the previous four seasons and then ranking the 64 leagues 1-64. The top six leagues, which include the Crestview and Trinity leagues, are in Division 1.
The Orange Coast and South Coast leagues are in Division 2 for team dual competition. Division 3 has the Surf League, which is part of the new two-league Sunset Conference (the Wave League is the other conference league). Division 4 has the North Hills, Pacific Coast and Sea View leagues. The Empire, Freeway and Golden West leagues are in Division 5. The Garden Grove, Orange and Wave leagues are in Division 6.
The CIF-SS Masters Meet is Feb. 15-16 at Cerritos College.
The girls side of the sport continues to grow, enough so that at this season's CIF State Championships girls wrestling competition will be held concurrently with boys championships at the CIF State meet at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. For the first time the state meet will be a three-day event, Feb. 21-23.
The CIF-SS girls wrestling championships are at Roosevelt High of Eastvale, Feb. 15 and 16.
Annually one of the top wrestling events in the county, the Mann Classic, is Friday and Saturday at Marina High.
Servite, which co-hosts the tournament with Marina, is in it as are several other count-ranked teams: No. 2 Villa Park, No. 4 Calvary Chapel, No. 8 Capistrano Valley, No. 7 Fountain Valley and No. 10 Irvine. Bakersfield, No. 9 in the state team rankings, will also compete at the Mann Classic.
Single-day admission to the Mann Classic is $8 for adults and $5 for students and children. A two-day pass is $12 for adults and $8 for students and children.