The sheet of drizzling, gray clouds, and the sharp, cold wind disappeared behind the Berkeley High School wrestling team as they entered the Donahue Gym on February 11. The sound of friendly chatter and squeaking shoes bounced off the walls, creating an atmosphere of good-natured competition that lasted throughout the day. The gym held three large wrestling mats, each occupied by wrestlers from nine different schools as they geared up for the season-ending championship.
The West Alameda County Conference (WACC) is a county-wide wrestling tournament for boys and girls, with over 150 matches taking place throughout the full-day event. The male athletes who won at least three matches qualified for the larger-scale North Coast Section (NCS) championship, whereas the female athletes automatically qualified. The exceptional winners of the NCS championship are able to compete in the higher-level state championships.
Shiella Paredes-Akimoto is a BHS senior and co-captain of the wrestling team. While the championship was just beginning, Paredes-Akimoto shared her predictions regarding the event.
“I think our wrestlers are definitely going to do pretty well,” she said. Paredes-Akimoto explained that “the biggest thing that leads to winning matches is wrestling smart … Wrestling smart is just having good situational awareness.”
Senior and wrestling co-captain, Gabe Ross, was enthusiastic about the results of the championship. “I think that I did great, first of all,” he said. “In my first match, I was stumbling a lot. You can see that in the video of the match. But in my second match, I had my head in the game and I was able to beat a Castro Valley kid that actually beat me earlier in the year. That was awesome.”
Unfortunately, according to Ross, “there were more injuries this year than I’ve ever seen in any other year.” Several of the boys varsity players couldn’t compete in the conference tournament due to injuries. The Berkeley High boys varsity team scored a total of 51 points throughout the championship, placing them in seventh place out of the nine competing school teams. Regardless of the varsity team’s placement, many of the BHS wrestlers undoubtedly brought their A-game. Ross highlighted some of the outstanding athleticism of his teammates, stating that “Shiella (Paredes-Akimoto), the girl’s co-captain, Metztli (Olague Guerrero), a sophomore girl in her first year on the team, and I all got conference champion for our league.”
Along with the three aforementioned athletes, several other BHS wrestlers qualified for the NCS championship which occurred the following weekend.
The WACC championship showcased the comradery and talent of the BHS wrestling team. As Ross put it, “Everyone did great, and I’m really proud of my team.”