More in Schools:
By Marcus D. Smith–
San Juan Spartan wrestling is officially back competing around the Northern California region consistently for the first time in over a decade. And for the first time since 2001, they have an opportunity to have a wrestler compete in state.
Last year, the team just competed in one tournament, whereas this season they will appear in five, a 500% increase.
Motivated by competitive students who want to develop their skills and gain an experience on life, San Juan High School wrestling coaches Andy Villegas and Cory Bonincontri were able to help rally the community and support the Spartan wrestling team.
For years though, the Spartans have struggled to get into tournaments and provide competition outside of exhibition matches.
“We don’t get any money for wrestling,” said Bonincontri. “We reached out in the community [and] really came together and we raised right under $4,000 in like eight days.”
Bonincontri is an alumni of San Juan High School, who has been coaching wrestling for seven years around the northern region, at both the high school and junior collegiate level. He was a former wrestler at San Juan High School from 1998-2001 and went on to compete at Sierra College where he was selected to first-team all conference in 2002 and 2003.
He was the last Spartan to represent San Juan High School in the state tournament in 2001. Now, with his expertise and giving back to his alma mater, San Juan High School not only has a competing team again, but also a chance to put some kids in the state tournament.
Villegas is also an alumni and former wrestler for San Juan High School. He also coaches the varsity football program.
Through fundraisers within the community within Citrus Heights area and on social media, San Juan will be able to afford to send their kids to tournaments to compete in. What’s even more exciting for the Spartans is the new team gear and apparel that was able to be purchased for the tournaments the athletes will compete in.
“Last time San Juan has had new gear was ’99 when I was a sophomore,” said Bonincontri. “We have a bag of miscellaneous seam-lets from mid-90s to early 2000s that we put together.”
The Spartans were able to compete over the weekend in the Vista Eagle Invitational, a tournament hosted by Vista Del Lago High School. San Juan traveled with three wrestlers to compete for the day, and all three would medal by placing top eight by the end of the day.
Freshman Drew Hansen finished in eighth place, cracking the top eight milestone. Fellow junior, Nicolas Ciccone, finished at sixth place overall. For Hansen and Ciccone, this is their first year as wrestlers competing on the team.
Another junior, Yana Linko, who is a second-year wrestler, would end up placing fifth overall.
The Spartans look to continue their magical season and hopefully spark a change that will create a buzz that will attract more students to come out and become a participant of the wrestling team at San Juan High School.
For the school, this is just the start of something special. For now they want to focus on the moment they have in front of them and work their way toward something promising.
“I keep telling the kids, we live in the now. It’s not future trip. We have the state title, or the state tournament… if we’re not in the now we won’t get there,” said Bonincontri.
See more sports coverage on The Sentinel’s sports page: click here.
The Sentinel’s sports coverage isn’t possible without the help of our paid subscribers. Consider a subscription for just $4/mo. and help make more coverage possible.
Sports Reporter Marcus D. Smith covers high school sports in Citrus Heights. Smith is a Sacramento-area native and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2017.
Thanks for reading The Sentinel. You are either trying to access subscribers-only content or you have reached your limit of 5 free articles per 30 days. Click here to sign in or subscribe.