National High School Coach of the Year Steve Tirapelle of Clovis High pointed to a rare wrestling tournament that the Cougars didn't win for setting the stage for the honor.
The Cougars' fourth-place finish at the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna, Wis., helped garner attention for a program that would win 10 tournaments, – including the CIF State Championship with the second-most points scored in the event's 39-year history.
That led to a No. 7 final national ranking for Clovis by theopenmat.com and prompted the website to name Tirapelle its Coach of the Year.
"The West Coast in general gets overlooked," Tirapelle said. "We're out here, and we usually don't compete against the East Coast and the Midwest. It kind of leaves you out there in limbo, where you are not seen other than wrestling yourselves."
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"So making the trip to Wisconsin really helped. They saw that wrestling out in California is pretty good. We're right up there with some of the best wrestling in the nation."
The website noted that Tirapelle's coaching prowess helped elevate the Cougars past defending champion Bakersfield – a team that returned almost its entire lineup – at four common tournaments last season, including the state championships.
In addition to its 10 tournament titles, Clovis had an undefeated record in dual meets and produced a record 14 state qualifiers, seven of whom earned medals, including champions Daniel Gaytan (119 pounds) and Nick Nevills (285).
"We've been pretty fortunate this year," Tirapelle said. "To be recognized with the elite programs out there is very rewarding for the coaching staff, the kids, the school and the school district."
The National Federation of State High School Associations has approved the most drastic change to high school wrestling weight classes in 23 years, increasing the weight in 10 of the 14 classes.
Increases vary from one to 11 pounds and go into effect next season.
The 14 new weight classes are: 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
The old weight classes were: 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215 and 285.
The last wholesale change in weight classes came in 1988, when the lowest weight class was increased from 98 to 103. In 2002, the number of classes went from 13 to 14 and the 215-pound weight class became mandatory. In 2006, the 275-pound class was increased to 285 pounds.
Lemoore 285-pounder Steven Wood signed with Cal State Bakersfield. Wood went 48-7 and finished fourth at the CIF State Championships in his senior season to cap a 90-13 career.