The Wasco High School boy's varsity, junior varsity and girls varsity wrestling teams all took wins against the Shafter Generals. It was a proud moment for them all and an opportunity to move forward in the league.
The boy's varsity team won 54-18, the junior varsity 36-15 and the girls varsity team won 48-22.
Juan Gallardo is the head coach for all three teams and is joined by three other coaches, Danny Arellano, Garth Wara and Joe Blanchard.
Gallardo has been coaching for 27 years. He said the best part of coaching is watching the kids believe in themselves.
"Watching them grow up and be better people with some turning their grades around. We have students with a 1.3 GPA [grade-point average] who come away with a 3.4/3.7 GPA. It's pretty remarkable," Gallardo said.
He said the wrestlers are student-athletes.
"I teach the kids they must be students before they are athletes. It's never the other way around. If it is the other way around, they will fail."
His core value as a coach is to care about the kids to understand where they come from.
"I treat them all differently. I want them to know that I believe in them more than they believe in themselves. I want them to see they are important to the program, to their parents and that actions speak louder than words," Gallardo said.
"I want them to enjoy the sport of wrestling. It's a tough sport, and it's not made for everybody, but they are a special group of kids."
All three teams practice every day after school for three hours. In the off-season, they also train as intensively.
Gallardo said of their accomplishments, "It was a good win – good for the kids and the fans. They put in a lot of work off-season and during the season, and it paid off."
He said the wins against Shafter were significant.
"The rivalry between them is exceptional, going on for over 100 years, and applies to every sport like football, baseball and soccer. It's always good when we beat them and vice versa. Our kids at WHS really work hard, and the wins come with bragging rights."
Ram Lopez is on the varsity team and said, "It always feels great to beat our rival. We beat them last year, so we are on a great winning streak. I am very excited about the rest of the season to come. We have the South Sequoia League tournament in two weeks, and I'm feeling very confident about winning and also winning the Valley championship this year."
Including the win against Shafter, all the teams have done exceptionally well.
The varsity boy's team is 8-1 in the league, having only lost to Bakersfield.
"I am very proud of them," Gallardo said. "We have placed top five at the Bash and Lemoore tournaments."
"The junior varsity boy's team has played in tournaments, and they have been outstanding," Gallardo said. "The girl's varsity program is amazing. Last year we had six girls, and they won the South Sequoia League title. This year we have 17 girls, and they have done incredibly at the tournaments. They have an excellent chance of winning back-to-back titles again."
The ultimate goal is to be a state placer or a state champion with the CIF, which incorporates wrestling teams from the whole state of California.
Apart from the wrestlers honing their athleticism, Gallardo said they are learning life skills.
"It teaches them accountability and how to show up for hard work. They are learning responsibility for themselves and for their teammates while being a leader and a team player at the same time. It's fun to watch that happen."
Gallardo is grateful.
"I have coaches who sacrificed their time, away from their families, to help our wrestlers succeed. They are incredible, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart."