Mira Costa grapplers face tough test in Bay League opener
Seeking a return to the glory days of the 1990s, Mira Costa’s wrestling program is on the right road but it faces a large obstacle Thursday when the Mustangs travel to take on perennial power West Torrance in a dual meet at 3 p.m.
In the CIF Division 6 preseason poll, West is ranked No. 3 and Mira Costa is listed at No. 9, but the two teams are closer than the rankings indicate.
In early December, West won its own tournament, the Brute Warrior Invitational, for the fifth consecutive year. But this year’s championship came be a mere three points over runner-up Mira Costa.
The Mustangs had three champions including Jimmy Millea, Jake Shapiro and Jason Guerrero, who wrestled for Mira Costa’s ‘B’ team.
“Both West High and North High have dominated our area and have ranked high at the state level in the last few years,” Mira Costa head coach Jimmy Chaney said. “Our goal is to build a team that can compete at that level. Our test will be on Thursday at West. They are a team that has destroyed us over the last few years.”
Chaney returned as Mira Costa’s head coach last season after leading the Mustangs to seven consecutive league titles in the 90’s and feels confident in his team’s ability.
“For us to win, everyone has to have their best match,” Chaney said. “But, we can do it. What I’m saying is that if we win, it won’t be a shock. West is in the same boat that we are in. If everyone on their team doesn’t have their best match, I don’t think they’ll win.”
Mira Costa, which finished second in the Bay League last season, continues to improve despite being a young team. The Mustangs won the 38-team L.A. City Throwdown tournament with Ariel Floro (120 pound), Makai Elep (145), Shapiro (160), Zach Schrader (182) and Millea (heavyweight) winning their respective weight divisions.
Chaney said one of the best compliments this season came when he heard that published quotes stating he felt his team could compete with West were hanging on the wall in the West High wrestling room.
“They were using that to motivate their team and it let me know that they realize that this could really be a tough match,” Chaney said. “I love competition like this, and no matter what the outcome is it is going to be awesome to see the two teams battling it out. I’m looking forward to the excitement and fun and I hope we have a lot of people from the community that will come out to watch it.”
Mira Costa is coming off a strong showing at the 64-team Tournament of Champions held last weekend at Cerritos College.
Millea finished fourth and Shapiro placed sixth, leading the Mustangs to a 14th-place finish.
“I was very proud of the team because last year only one person made it to the second day (top 16),” Chaney said. “This year, we took 11 people and seven of them made it back to the second day. One of the highlights was Kit Murphy (140) beating the last year Nevada runner-up.”
Chaney also noted that Lars Cameron (108) and Alex Chaney (128) advanced to the top 12 and Guerrero (147), Wyatt Wiggins (172) and Niilo Niemi (222) reached the top 16.
Chaney, who wrestled at Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University in the early 1990’s, led Mira Costa to a second-place finish in the CIF Duals in 1994 and in 1995, th4 Mustangs finished third in the CIF Individuals.
Chaney put his coaching career on hiatus because of time restraints after having children. He returned to Mira Costa as an assistant coach two years ago to help Coach Quinn Ryan build up a stronger program.
“We were able to build a strong freshmen team together,” Chaney said. “He (Ryan) moved to Michigan, so last year I became the head coach again. All I’ve done is continued with the same plan that Quinn and I put together – Build a strong freshmen team every year and soon you will have a solid team with lots of depth.
“This year we have a solid group of juniors, sophomores and freshmen. Our seniors are solid individuals; we just don’t have the numbers. In the past, our varsity team would only have a few seniors and a few juniors, and they were good, but the team had too many underclassmen in the line-up that just weren’t ready for varsity yet. Now we send two teams to most of the varsity tournaments and we have several kids from the ‘B’ team that place in tournaments.”