Varsity wrestling wins league title in almost 50 years, moves onto individual playoff duals

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Ava Seccuro staff writer

Normans varsity wrestling won its first league title in almost 50 years, 63-14 against the Santa Monica Vikings, paving the way for their journey to CIF.

There was not a dull moment this entire dual. The excitement was palpable the moment the wrestlers stepped onto the mat. The dual started with a serious tone, so much so that the sidelines were almost quiet, differing greatly from the energy displayed later in the dual. After the second match, the intensity started to pick up, with Head Coach Ryan Faintich and the other wrestlers shouting suggestions and words of encouragement. Matches stuck to a recurring pattern: the Vikings would tend to spar first, but the Normans would always make a comeback.

The win instilled more hope for this team in Faintich even than he had in the previous years. He accredits the title to an opportunity that the wrestling team has not had until this year.

“I have to be honest, it’s great. Our team really came together and throughout the year we had some bumps and some injuries, but as a team we overcame them. In years past, when one of our better guys got injured, it’s like, ‘Oh man, next season,’ because we were so thin. But now, we have so many great guys up and down the lineup that it’s a lot more fun to win as a team,” Faintich said. “That is such a luxury that we haven’t been afforded up until this year.”

The blowout win for league title was not the only milestone hit that night. Aside from it being senior captain Daniel Heller’s and senior Max Vasquez’s last league dual, Heller won his 100th varsity match. To win it at home, was a needless to say, a magical moment for him.

“[This feels] absolutely incredible. I have no words to describe how happy I am,” Heller said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to win with my team and get that win myself and [my 100 wins] and it’s fun to do that at home as opposed to some random gym at some random tournament. It really makes it special to be at home on senior night.”

Heller claims that this season was unlike past years; the fearlessness of his team contributed to winning league title. He also thinks that this strategy will set the stage for a tradition of winning.

“No doubt in their mind. In years past, there’s been doubt, people haven’t dealt with their emotions properly, and winning and losing, and there’s been a lot of fear. Fear of failure, fear of whatever that may be,” Heller said. “But, this year, everybody is just letting it fly. They’re not worried. A win is a win, a loss is room to improve…[When people lose] they’re thinking, get back to the drawing board, get back to the practice room, we have matches to win. And I think that’s really made the difference. It’s individuals’ mindset and how that collectively breeds urge for success.”

Once seniors Heller and Vasquez graduate, the junior class will make up the bulk of varsity team. Junior Tommy Golin, a three-year varsity veteran, compares the league win to when the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA championship in 2016. As a potential captain, Golin thinks that next season will hold the same fate.

“For me and the team this win is big deal, as a freshman this goal was not even possible…we as a team knew this was our year to win it. We put in a lot of hours and hard work leading up to this, and it felt really good,” Golin said. “I felt like the Cavs when they won because the Cavs team haven’t won a championship for so long and they finally got a super good team together to do it. For next season, I know we can repeat that success.”

Although The Normans basked in the glory of their league title this season, Faintich is already setting goals for next season.

“We’re going to be losing two seniors and certainly some of the best that we’ve ever had, but at the same time, losing two guys is not that many. The quality of the guys we’re losing is very high, but we’re going to be a lot stronger next season,” Faintich said. “The best is yet to come. I think next year, we’d like to have a strong performance in league again and maybe broaden our horizons and try to aim for something in the way of a CIF title.”

The Normans attended a CIF duals tournament this past Saturday, Jan. 26 at Royal High School, made it to quarterfinals and placed in the top 8. Now they move onto individual postseason playoff duals which take place on Feb. 2 at Redondo Union High School.

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