Liberty senior Jesse Gregerson headlines a Lions roster that could make noise at NCS
When the Liberty High football team roared back to life this fall, Jesse Gregerson had a front-row seat as the Lions community embraced the most successful team in program history.
The senior linebacker certainly played a big role. Recording 90 tackles from his linebacker position, Gregerson found himself in the middle of the action more often than not. While he helped revive a football program long dormant, Gregerson’s true talents lie on the mat. There, in the Liberty wrestling room, the senior doesn’t need to lead any sort of epic turnaround. Instead, his role as one of the few upperclassmen on a young team is the polar opposite.
Now, his focus is centered on continuing a tradition of excellence.
Gregerson knows the history because he grew up in it. A product of the Delta Wrestling Club program that has produced so many state-caliber wrestlers, he competes for a coach in Greg Chappel that ranks among the most respected in the nation. As he tries to put his final stamp on the Liberty program, the weight of what lies before him hasn’t escaped Liberty’s 160-pounder. “It’s been an honor wrestling for Chappel and being part of the program. He’s been my mentor since I was young,” Gregerson said. “We are (known) around this area for good wrestling and I’m glad to keep that going.”
Always an intense figure in the room, Gregerson has at times found it hard to find a consistent training partner. With a unique style that relies on his physical nature, Chappel said assistant coach Jake Edwards has played the role of workout partner most frequently.
“He’s been doing a good job. He’s lost a couple matches but it’s been when I’ve had him up wrestling against bigger guys,” Chappel said. “That’s my whole idea, to keep him wrestling the tougher people and, when state comes along and he’s at his weight class, he’ll be a little more physical.”
Gregerson cruised along early in the season as one of the favorites to top the podium at the North Coast Section individual tournament later this month. He placed first at 170 pounds at the Lou Bronzan Invitational, went 7-0 at the Moanalua Holiday Duals in Hawaii and placed third at the Joe Rios Invitational in Chico.
That brought Gregerson to the Tim Brown Memorial in Sacramento and, wrestling at the 160 pounds that he’ll carry into the postseason, Liberty’s senior leader let his guard down and lost the championship match by pinfall to Windsor’s Beau Colombini. While that resulted in Colombini being ranked two spots higher (No. 12 to No. 14) in the most recent state rankings released by TheCaliforniaWrestler.com, Gregerson now knows the game plan should the two meet again.
“I feel like I need to get my mind right before the match, be focused and have a game plan, not just go in there and see whatever happens,” Gregerson said. “I beat him the last two years, so I kind of underestimated him and got caught.”
In the meantime, Liberty’s quest for another Bay Valley Athletic League title seems in good shape. A 55-15 win over Freedom on Jan. 28 saw Gregerson stick Falcons standout Stephen Carter in just 40 seconds and the Lions win 11 of 14 matches.
“That was a huge deal,” Gregerson said. “We thought it was going to be a close one. We went in there and did our thing.”
Though the focus will turn primarily toward individual accomplishments once the middle of February rolls around, Gregerson is still very much invested in the development of his younger teammates. League titles still mean quite a bit in wrestling, which means the Lions definitely have their sights set on the BVAL Championships that take place Feb. 20 at Liberty.
To add yet another crown to an already crowded trophy case, work continues for the Lions. Senior Grant Ferris has been a key team leader alongside Gregerson. Sophomore Sergio Napoles won the 120-pound title at the Lou Bronzan Invitational while junior Bryar Edwards had to default out of the Bronzan, but placed second at the Joe Rios Invitational at 120 pounds. Junior Justin Hansz has had a strong start to the season with runner-up finishes at both the Bronzan and Joe Rios and a fifth-place showing at the Tim Brown and Chappel mentioned Cole Zanarini as one underclassman who has taken also taken a big step forward.
“We have a very young squad,” Gregerson said. “I didn’t really know what we were going to be like because a lot of people graduated. We went to Hawaii and wrestled our butts off. The young guys showed they were the real deal and showed they can keep the tradition going.”
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