SAN JOSE, Calif. — The globe is still grappling with the pandemic, but the sports world is back, refusing to tap out to Covid’s assault.
And that means high school sports are in full effect in the South Bay. As autumn transitions into winter, Bellarmine College Prep wrestlers are preparing to hit the mat. It’s been a couple of years.
“I think everybody’s really excited to have what it appears to be a regular season,” said Bellarmine head wrestling coach Scott Benson. “I think there is going to be a lot of surprises because teams haven’t seen each other for two years. And so you don’t know what’s kinda been percolating in the old coffee pot.”
Benson said the Bells have a shot at winning the always tough West Catholic Athletic League. But they’ll have to get by St. Francis (Mountain View) and possibly Archbishop Riordan (San Francisco).
“They (St. Francis) have some horses…they have a great coaching staff and a lot of kids. And they’re a lot like us,” Benson said. “So that’s going to be really just a competitive dual meet.”
“Riordan, I’m not sure what they got coming back. They were really good a couple years ago. They’ve been getting real tough kids. The coaching staff is solid. So they’ll probably be in the mix too.”
But the larger prize is a Central Coast Section title. Traditionally, the Bells have been in the top four, winning it all in 2001.
“And so the expectation now is to build back to that,” Benson said. “I would say that our goal every year should be to be one of the top four teams in the section. And this is a year we could do it.”
But they’ll face stiff competition from Gilroy High School, Palma (Salinas) and Evergreen Valley (San Jose). And the Bells graduated several seniors two years ago. The 2019 JV wrestlers have moved onto the varsity squad, but the pandemic year didn’t allow them to pivot into their varsity roles, Benson said. So the 2021-2022 season will have to be their transition year.
However, Benson believes Bellarmine has the personnel to capture a section championship, or at least in the top four.
”Our kids will win a lot of matches. They’ll score a lot of points in tournaments. So I think that we could definitely make a decent run and kinda be back up in the top.”
The Bells’ top returner is senior Jayden Felipe, who placed fifth in the section as a sophomore. He will probably wrestle at 126, Benson said.
“We’re looking at him to be a finalist in CCS…he’s got a chance of placing at state,” Benson said. “If he does all the right things, he’s got an outside shot at placing at top eight at state…he’s a gamer.”
He said senior Rocco Trapani could also go deep into the postseason.
“Our other really good one is Rocco Trapani. For sure, he should be a section placer…and more than likely a state qualifier.”
Other potential section placers are seniors Carlo Reyna, Trey Louderback, Tyler Bettencourt, Nick Hinz, Jaiden Reyes and junior Nick Milligan.
If they all place in the top six, then Bellarmine will be a top-four team, Benson said.
“That’s how we won it in 2001. We only had one kid in the finals, but we placed 10 kids.”
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