Ralph Garcia is well aware that his first job as a head wrestling coach couldn't have come at a much better place.
After all, he landed at Clovis West High, a three-time state champion that returns four qualifiers -- including three medalists -- from a team that finished seventh in California last season.
"It's not like it's in bad shape," Garcia said. "There are definitely guys coming into situations that are worse."
Garcia, a former state placer for Camarillo High, comes to Clovis West after a three-year stint as an assistant at Clovis. He's also served as assistant head coach at Fresno City College, where he was named the Co-assistant Coach of the Year for California community colleges in 2006.
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Garcia's current and former prep schools are among the 13-team field for this weekend's Clovis West Shootout.
The dual-meet format tournament gathers six of the top 14 teams from last year's state championships in Buchanan (second), Clovis (fourth), Gilroy (sixth), Bakersfield (seventh), Clovis West (seventh) and Vacaville (14th). Other schools entered include Clovis East, Hanford West, Stockdale, Bella Vista-Fair Oaks, El Dorado-Placentia, Ventura and Laguna Hills. These teams have combined to win 15 state titles.
Wrestling begins at 11 a.m. today in Clovis West's west gym, with action resuming at 9 a.m. Saturday.
"This is hands down the toughest dual meet tournament in California, and probably the toughest on the West Coast," Garcia said. "Wrestling is predominantly an individual sport, but to get all the top dual-meet teams in the same gym is pretty exciting."
Buchanan (which features four returning state placers in Adrian Rodriguez, Damien Arredondo, Martin Fabbian and Kyle Papendorf) and Bakersfield (with state placers Timmy Box, Bryce Hammond and Brian Schoene) appear to be the class of the field along with host Clovis West, which returns state medalists Stevan Knoblauch, Zach Zimmer and Chris Martinez.
Clovis would have been a favorite to win the Clovis West Shootout as well, but it is sending most of its top wrestlers to the prestigious Ironman tournament at Walsh Jesuit High in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Daniel Gaytan (112 pounds), Sonny Cervantes (130), Alec Dieter (135), Clinton McAlester (140), Blake Thompson (160), Zach Nevills (171) and Tommy Burriel (189) will represent the Cougars against a field of national-class wrestlers.
Burriel (No. 4), Nevills (No. 7), McAlester (No. 7), Gaytan (No. 8) and Dieter (No. 10) all were given seeds in the brackets of 30-plus wrestlers.
"We wouldn't have brought them if we didn't think they could do well," said Clovis assistant Adam Tirapelle, who is with the wrestlers in Ohio while his father and Cougars head coach Steve Tirapelle stayed home to coach his wrestlers in the Shootout.
The Ironman also features six wrestlers from Selma: Alex Cisneros (112), Nick Pena (135), Rico Aguilar (152), Isiah Morfin (145), Nick Escalera (160) and Justin Lozano (171). Defending state 103-pound champion Cisneros (third) and Pena (eighth) are seeded.