Gabe Schaefer, who helped Bloomington High rise from obscurity to Southern Section power, has been hired as the associate head coach at five-time reigning state wrestling champion Clovis.
He will be groomed as the eventual replacement for Cougars’ director of sport Steve Tirapelle, who has led Clovis to seven state titles and 12 Central Section championships in 18 seasons.
“I’m definitely not coming in to try and change anything,” Schaefer said. “But if things work out, that’s why I’m making the big move. We’ll see if things work out.”
Tirapelle retired as a teacher this year but plans to continue coaching for another couple of seasons. He targeted Schaefer as a potential replacement because he essentially built a program from next to nothing as Tirapelle once did at Hiram Johnson-Sacramento.
“He’s going to be a huge plus to our program,” Tirapelle said. “He will not only contribute, but contribute way above what we expect. He’s a person who could take over the program, he has that kind of knowledge.
“I’ll mentor him for three to four years and see if he grabs the bull by the horns and runs with it. This is a pretty good job, and this is a pretty good guy. It’s a great fit for us and our kids.”
He will not only contribute, but contribute way above what we expect. He’s a person who could take over the program, he has that kind of knowledge.
Clovis wrestling coach Steve Tirapelle on new associate head coach Gabe Schaefer
When Schaefer arrived at Bloomington, located in an unincorporated area near Riverside, the school had enjoyed little success in wrestling since opening its doors in 1962. He had 15 wrestlers his first season, many with little to no experience.
But in nine seasons under Schaefer, the Bruins blossomed into a program with more than 70 wrestlers that won five Southern Section dual meet titles and one Southern Section individual tournament championship. He produced 14 state qualifiers, four state medalists and 2013 220-pound state champion Derrick Jones.
Tirapelle and his staffs, meanwhile, have coached 94 state medalists and 23 state champions. Schaefer is looking forward to tapping into that experience.
“Coming in I’ll learn a lot from them and hopefully also be able to give some input from my areas of expertise,” said Schaefer, a three-time San Bernardino County Coach of the Year and the Southern Section Coach of the Year in 2014. “I’m coming from a pretty successful program where I kind of had to do everything myself, so it will be nice to be able to step back and focus on some of the finer details of coaching.”
Schaefer was a two-time state medalist for Cheney High in Washington before wrestling at South Dakota State and then did an eight-year stint with the Air Force National Team, where he was an Armed Forces medalist five times and the American Red Cross Military Hero of the Year in 2005.
6 Combined Southern Section dual and individual tournament titles won by Gabe Schaefer during his nine seasons as coach at Bloomington High.
Schaefer replaces Ben Holscher, who left the Cougars after nine seasons to become associate head coach at Clovis North under director of sport Josh Adams.
Clovis will be a heavy favorite to win a sixth straight state title in March with four wrestlers ranked nationally by Flo Wrestling: No. 5 120-pounder Justin Mejia, No. 3 182-pounder Josh Hokit, No. 14 195-pounder AJ Nevills and No. 5 220-pounder Seth Nevills.
Banner crop of local wrestlers
Wrestling season is six months away, but it’s shaping up to be another good one locally.
In addition to the four from Clovis, there are six other nationally ranked wrestlers from the section.
Flo Wrestling has three ranked among the top 18 at 126 in Bakersfield’s No. 9 JJ Figueroa, Buchanan’s No. 12 Durbin Lloren and Bakersfield’s No. 18 Navonte Demison.
Also nationally ranked are Dinuba’s Isaiah Perez (No. 16 at 106), as well as Mission Oak’s David Campbell (No. 16 at 120) and Jaden Enriquez (No. 11 at 132).