As you know, I’m a SportStars INSIDER. The publisher recently asked me to talk about my roots in high school wrestling. Just so happens, I have a story to share with you about that! Outside of my main gig, I’m the editor of The California Wrestler!
The 2018 – ’19 season marks the 45th year of The California Wrestler Newsletter (TCW), the long-standing original voice of wrestling in the Golden State and abroad.
The origin of the TCW is 1974 when founders Bill Grant and Larry Prosper formulated the concept of generating the newsletter. Its intent, to inform the wrestling community of the latest dual and tournament results – as newspapers throughout Northern California were lacking the coverage in their respective areas.
After much consultation with coaches in the greater Bay Area, Grant and Prosper launched the first newsletter, the Northern California Newsletter. It focused primarily with sections in the North Coast, Central Coast, Sacramento/San-Joaquin counties, Northern area, Oakland and San Francisco City leagues.
The Northern California Wrestler’s first welcome letter was distributed to coaches, wrestlers, families, and fans via regular mail during the fall of 1975.
After a few seasons it was expanded throughout the entire state, thus becoming The California Wrestler Newsletter.
Typically, five or six newsletters (created by the “old school” cut and paste method on paper and then photo copied at a local Kinko’s) were distributed each season.
After its launch, editors Stan Jamerson, Olympian/Coach Bill Smith, Larry Farrant, Vern Baxter, and California HOF recipient Lynn Dyche came onboard and contributed for several years.
A few decades later in the 1990s, editors Jim Lucas, Jeff Roberts, Michael Wright, and Al Fontes joined the staff, where Fontes and Wright began the modernization of the TCW from its paper newsletter to a web-based blog.
The TCW first joined the World Wide Web during the early part of the new millennium.
TCW then welcomed Rick Griffith (Webmaster), Michael Cho (State/Section rankings), Ray Brinzer (Webmaster), Aaron Fontes (Editor/Historian), and various contributors to its staff.
More recently, the TCW re-established itself as the voice of high school wrestling news in the Golden State.
The Greatest Sport on Earth:
Just as it was in its humble beginnings, the current TCW staff is made up of former wrestlers, coaches, volunteers, and people that value good ethics, integrity, passion for the sport, and most importantly, respect to all that have participated in or have been an integral part of amateur wrestling.
Fast forward to this year, the 2018-’19 season. The TCW is where the avid wrestling fans view day-to-day stories, biographies, Q&As, past high school and junior college state championship results. You also get national results, state statistics, All-American teams, high school pre-season reviews. And a 24/7 forum that has become a major hub in Cali to discuss current events and more.
Michael Cho compiles the most accurate and reliable rankings in the Golden State.
These rankings have been tested and proven, and are the primary source for each of the established national ranking groups representingWrestling USA Magazine, Amateur Wrestling News, FLO, WIN Magazine, and InterMat.
Moreover, the TCW has expanded its voice to other social media too – Twitter and Facebook. TCW offers free access to its site for all its fans.
Without a doubt, the total commitment and dedication to promote wrestling in the Golden State in the early days by its founders set the foundation to what we have today; a nationally recognized and respected wrestling site, which has expanded its viewership throughout the entire country and abroad.
From the beginning of the regular season through the post season, the TCW, the original and time tested news source for California wrestling, is the place to go for the latest and most comprehensive source of wrestling in the Golden State.
Meet the Team:
BILL GRANT has been involved with the sport of wrestling for nearly 60 years. He began his mat career at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto and competed for San Francisco State, earning a Far Western Conference title, as well as two trips to the NCAA Division II Championships in 1967 and ’68.
His coaching tenure began in 1971 at Pacifica High School in Pittsburg, CA and in 1976 he led Oakland High School in the city section to a 4th place team finish at the CIF State Championships, producing 4 medalist in the process.
To date, no other Oakland school has achieved this feat.
After a short stint at Roseburg High School in Oregon, where his team was the 1977 Southern Oregon Conference Champions, he took the helm at Monterey High School in the Central Coast Section (CCS) in 1978 and for the next 27 years his teams earned a CCS title in 1982 and produced 38 section medalist and 4 CIF State placers.
Currently, Bill coaches at Pacific Grove High School. More importantly, he has been among the top promoters of wrestling in the Golden State and abroad.
In 1974, he founded the Northern California Wrestler Newsletter, which shortly thereafter became what we know today as The California Wrestler Newsletter.
In addition, Bill has run the Monterey Coaches Clinic of Champions since the late 1970s, which for the past four decades has been rated among the top wrestling clinics in the country. Serving on numerous executive committees and Board of Director groups, Bill also earned several Coach-of-the-Year awards and was inducted to the California Wrestling Hall-of-Fame in 2004 and the National Wrestling Hall-of-Fame, California Chapter in 2015.
Bill’s responsibilities include managing TCW advertisements. In addition, he is contributing editor for Wrestling USA Magazine and CIF State program. Married with a son, Bill resides in Pacific Grove, Ca and is a retired teacher with 35 years of teaching service.
AL FONTES “Coach Al” has over 38 years of service in the sport of wrestling. He has served as the California State Editor of the California Wrestler Newsletter since 1995 and has also been a contributing editor for several national wrestling publications and websites -including SportStars; (Wrestling USA Magazine, Amateur Wrestling News, WIN Magazine, InterMat and theMat.com).
His awards include Wrestling USA Magazine Editor-of-the-Year (2001), Wrestling USA Magazine Person-of-the-Year (2001), and at the 2001 CIF State Championships, he was awarded the Irv Oliner Award for extensive contributions to the promotion of wrestling in California.
Al was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall-of-Fame (Lifetime Service Award) in May 2016 and in 2018, Al was the recipient of Amateur Wrestling News’ Bob Dellinger Award, bestowed since 1960 to the nation’s top wrestling writer.
Currently, Al is a board member with the California Wrestling Hall-of-Fame committee.
Al coached wrestling for 25 years, at Livermore High School (NCS), Antioch High School (NCS), Liberty High School (Brentwood – NCS), Junction Middle School and Christensen Middle School (Livermore), Tri-Valley Wrestling Club, and Delta Wrestling Club.
He was the California Team Leader at the NHSCA Senior High School Nationals in 2001, 2002, and 2006 where California won the national team title in 2001 and runner-up in ’02 and ’06.
In addition, he has also been responsible for compiling statistical lists of all the CIF State Champions, NCAA Champions/All-Americans (all collegiate divisions), High School All-Americans, Freestyle/Greco-Roman All-Americans, and Olympians, which are posted on the TCW website and several of the national wrestling publications.
Al wrestled for Livermore High School, Chabot College, and graduated from the University of San Francisco with college honors. Al resides in Livermore, California and is married with one child. He has been employed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over 28 years.
MICHAEL WRIGHT is from Iowa where he wrestled varsity all four years for his high school, Southeast Warren. His biggest accomplishment in high school was qualifying for the 1988 state high school championships at 112 pounds and wrestling on the team that placed 4th in the Iowa State Dual Team Championships.
Wright coached at Hanford High for eight years leading the Bull Pup’s to a West Yosemite League Championship. To his credit are:
•4 straight top 20 CIF state finishes,
•2 top 10 CIF state finishes with a State Champion,
•10 state placers, 19 state qualifiers, a NHSCA Senior All-American, 4 NHSCA qualifiers
•4 USA Freestyle/Greco National place winners,
•and 7 USA National qualifiers.
He spent two years at Redwood High School in Visalia where he had 3 state qualifiers, 2 USA Freestyle/Greco place winners, and 6 USA National qualifiers.
Coach Wright is also a California National Freestyle and Greco Coach.
The 2018-’19 season will mark Coach Wright’s 13th season as the Emperors Head Coach at Dinuba High School. While there, Coach Wright has led the Emperors to their first league and Valley championship in school history in 2014 as well the school’s first two state places in 2015 and having numerous state qualifiers.
Since the late 1990s, Wright has been an integral part of the TCW staff. His responsibility includes managing the forum, advertisements, and during the early 2000’s was responsible for development of the TCW from an paper newsletter to an online content channel.
Awards include being chosen Tulare County Coach of the Year three times (2014 – ’16) and Tulare County Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2006. Coach Wright earned a BA degree in Political Science from Fresno State University.
MICHAEL CHO has been covering wrestling in California for approximately 12 years. A graduate of Los Gatos High School in the Central Coast Section, as well as a graduate of the Ivy League’s Columbia University, Cho has been an integral part of the TCW staff, primarily compiling the state rankings. His are considered by many in the wrestling circles to be among the most comprehensive in the nation.
Cho is responsible for compiling sectional rankings for the Central Coast Section and for the last several years has been the lead writer of the CIF State Championship’s preview.
More recently, he joined the CIF State Championship’s bracket planning committee. In 2017, Michael was awarded the State Person-of-the-Year Award by Wrestling USA Magazine.
AARON FONTES has been involved with the sport since the early 80’s. In 1981 his mat career began at Junction Middle School in Livermore, and then continued at Livermore High School in the North Coast Section.
While at Livermore High, he lettered all four years in wrestling and was a team captain his senior season. He wrestled his way into the North Coast Section finals and qualified to the prestigious CIF State Championships in 1986.
After high school, Aaron continued his mat career at Chabot College in Hayward, where he was a two-year letterman and also team captain in 1988. He finished his mat career by placing at the California Community College State Championships.
Aaron’s coaching tenure began at Junction Middle School in 1986 and continued thru the mid 1990s at his alma mater, Livermore High School, as well as the Tri-Valley Wrestling Club. Currently, he is coaching at the Iron House Wrestling Club in Oakley, CA.
Aaron’s promotion of wrestling goes back many years and recently, he has been involved with several historical projects, . These include compiling the final results for the North Coast Section (NCS) Championships dating back to the 1950s.
Aaron has been working on a series of promotional projects for other high schools in the NCS. Moreover, he’s been involved “behind the scenes” for many years researching and compiling wrestling statistics in support of his older brother Coach Al.
A graduate of Chabot College, Aaron resides in Oakley, is married and has five children. He has been employed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over 20 years.