The young Santa Monica High School Wrestling Team placed eight wrestlers in the top three spots at the Pioneer League Championships Friday. These wrestlers qualified for the CIF Southern Section Coastal Division Finals at Whittier High School in two weeks. In addition three other wrestlers qualified as alternates and have an excellent chance in wrestling. Seniors Ben Yura, Devondre Burris and Paul Chen lead the team with first, second, and third place finishes respectively. Ben Yura has won three of the four tournament championships he has competed in this season including the prestigious 45 team Rosemead Classic. He also won the inaugural LA County Allstars meet and remains on track to attain his goal of becoming a State Place winner at the State Championships in Bakersfield this March. Paul Chen achieved the upset victory of the league tournament defeating the highly favored South Torrance wrestler at the 112 pound division.
The Vikings have wrestled three freshmen, eight sophomores, two juniors and three seniors on their Varsity team this season which has been best described as a “building year” by head coach Mark Black. “Our young kids took their lumps all year. We told them they might get beat, but will not be broken; they have to learn from their losses!” Apparently they have done just that and have rebounded from a challenging season of few tournament place winnings and a 5-9 dual meet record to achieve a great outcome at the league championships.
“These kids represent the value of the recently established middle school programs as a feeder for the high school team. Most of these sophomores have been wrestling now for four seasons and our Santa Monica Bay Wrestling Club sponsored spring tournament season and summer camps afford them the year round experience they need to succeed in a sport where the best teams start the kids wrestling at 7-years-old!” explained Black. Coach Black has coached wrestling for 32 years, with 30 years at Santa Monica High School. He has coached student athletes to state championships and place winners. Ben Yura is wrestling at the level he could qualify for a state championship berth. This would be the SAMOHI VIKINGS 7th consecutive year sending wrestlers to the California State Championships.STAFF REPORT
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