SportStars Magazine

Granada High School’s Wrestling History Comes Full Circle

Photo credit – Adam Clark

As we enter into the 2017-2018 wrestling season, the coaching staff at Granada High School in Livermore, California begins the year with a newly established vision, a collection of program goals, and high ambitions to take the Matador program to the next level and beyond. Totally committed to the growth of wrestling in the area, the Granada staff is a representation of highly skilled mentors, as well as determined protégés and Granada alumni taking the head coaching reigns, reunified and motivated to put Granada back on the map and compete with the top teams in the local area, North Coast Section (NCS), and CIF state.

Opening its doors to students in 1963, Granada first fielded a wrestling program in 1965 and since has produced many outstanding wrestlers and teams that has excelled at the local, section, and state levels. Despite dropping off the sectional and state radar a bit in the last couple years, the Matador program did show that they are beginning to compete again at these levels with the crowning of two East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) Champions, five medalists at NCS, and one section champion in Jack Kilner being the first Matador to represent at state in three years. This year’s team shows a great deal of promise to continue this upward trajectory. Returning are NCS Champion Jack Kilner (Jr.), Anthony Martinez (Sr., 4th at NCS), Zack Stewart (Sr., 8th at NCS), and six other NCS qualifiers. Also joining the Matador program is top-level freshman Carter Bailey, a three-time kid’s level state medalist.

Without a goal or goals, one has no place or objective to aspire to. This is not the case for the staff at Granada. They enter this season determined to restore a wrestling culture in the room paralleled with the growth of wrestling in the local area and have their sites to ultimately compete at the state level. This is a large undertaking considering California is rated among the toughest states to win or earn a medal in the top eight (single division with close to 900 programs). To meet these goals, the plan is to continue to build a strong off-season club (Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and SCWAY Collegiate style) at the kids, middle school, and high school levels. Currently, the Tri-Valley Elite Wrestling Club represents the Livermore and Tri-Valley area and has produced many outstanding wrestlers that have gone on to place at the state and national levels. More importantly, the staff is determined to increase the roster numbers to 50 to 65 kids annually with the emphasis to build strong student athletes. Academically, the Granada program is among the top schools in the NCS. Last year, the Matador wrestlers were ranked #2 in GPA among the 100 plus programs in the NCS.

“It is our goal and determination to build top-level student athletes…we want our kids to move on to the next level, both on the mat and classroom,” said Co-Head Coach Sean Jackson.

The common denominator for a large percentage of top-level programs in California and abroad is the establishment of a strong feeder system. As mentioned above, the Granada coaching staff has committed their off-season to the building of a strong club program in the Tri-Valley Elite WC, which recently was ranked among the top 100 clubs in the country by Flo Wrestling. In addition to the Tri-Valley Elite WC, the staff is committed to coaching at the local middle schools that feed into Granada High School as well. These schools include Mendenhall Middle School and Joe Mitchell, which recently transitioned from an elementary to K through 8th grade.

Granada alumni at the 2017 fundraiser.

Fundraising is definitely an integral part of a program’s ability to succeed. At Granada, fundraising is a two-fold process that encompasses the means to raise funds, as well as bring alumni together to highlight and promote the program. For the last 15 years, the Granada program has run two tournaments. The Mat Classic established in 2002 is a varsity level event that attracts several of the top teams and individuals in the greater Bay Area, along with programs from the state of Nevada. In addition to the Mat Classic, the Joe Camilleri Tournament (est. 2003) has been a large event for Granada, attracting wrestlers at the freshman, sophomore, and Junior Varsity levels. On a special note, this tournament was named after the late Joe Camilleri, who was the Head Coach at Granada from the late 1980s to the beginning of the new Millennium. Coach Camilleri was a North Coast Section Champion and state runner-up at the Northern California Invitational for Hayward High School in 1961 (pre-CIF State Tournament). For the last several years Granada has held summer wrestling camps, which has brought to the room local stars such as 3x NCAA All-American Jason Welch, UFC Champion Urijah Faber, and 4x NCAA All-American Shawn Charles, to name a few. More recently, the Granada wrestling program held its first annual fundraiser, which attracted a large contingent of alumni and supporters of the program. The first annual fundraiser was a great success, exceeding pre-event expectations. Intertwined in the fundraising effort is the continuous growth of the booster’s effort, which plays an integral role in success of a program.

Chris Nadeau ’85 – EBAL Champ/3rd NCS…among the most inspirational wrestlers in Granada’s history.

In closing, the road to success is often met with failure coupled by many trials in the process. The Granada program has been down this road before and has had a strong history dating back 50 plus years, thus with the blue print for action that has been established by this year’s staff, the future looks bright for the Matadors. In essence, with the newly established co-head coaching position being led by alumni Sean Jackson, Spencer Phillips, and Dan Musselman, along with former coaches and mentors Rich Bailey, Pete Matheson, and Clark Conover re-establishing their coaching efforts, the program has “COME FULL CIRCLE.” I want to wish the Granada wrestling staff the best of luck in their efforts to build their program to compete at the section and state levels. The path to achieve one’s dream comes down to the simple fact that you have to conquer the dreams of others to meet that goal. The honor to write this article has been special to me because several of the staff are good friends of mine and a couple I had the honor and privilege to coach at Livermore High School back in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Clark Conover and Pete Matheson).

 

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