SHINGLE SPRINGS — Ponderosa’s esteemed grappling program got an assist from its past Wednesday as two coaching icons, Richard Fox and Steve Escobar, returned mat side for the Bruins’ match with visiting Bella Vista.
Both California Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees, the two won 19 league championships, eight section titles, coached 30 state medalists and complied the nation’s second longest dual meet win streak in their 20 years together, including a won-loss record of 349-43 — make that 350 victories — after Ponderosa’s 57-18 defeat of the Broncos.
Escobar coached from 1971-1998, Fox from 1978-2000. Within that period, they coached their sons: Tyson, Ryan and Bryce Escobar; Christian, Brandon and Evan Fox. All six were state qualifiers, five medaled.
“They were the two individuals who put the league and section championships banners on the gym wall and have built our winning legacy that we still have today,” said Tyson, the current Bruin head coach. “In any given sport at our school and probably the county, they were probably the most successful coaches by what they achieved.”
Both have retired from teaching, Steve in 2010 and Richard last spring. Now, fishing, golfing, bike riding, softball, gardening and a combined 23 grandchildren occupy their time, though Richard still stays active helping the Bruins’ team.
“It was fun having the old group … Steve and John (Taylor) together … a lot of memories,” Richard said. “I was impressed with a couple of the freshman (tonight) and the aggressiveness of some of the older kids — you could see their mat experience.”
Wednesday’s match was close in the lightweights before Ponderosa tallied 46 of the last 51 points when the weight classes inched upward.
“The strength of the group is middle (weight) up … they’ll be pinners,” Steve said. “I miss coaching, it’s been 15 years for me. It used to be my life. Rich and I spent a lot of time together.”
Though TJ Holloway (106 pounds) lost a close 5-3 decision to open the wrestling, Coach Fox’s late instruction for Holloway to surrender an escape point almost paid dividends as the Bruin nearly scored a last-second takedown.
“It was either lose by one point on the stall-out or let go and try for the takedown,” Fox said.
Bella Vista scored a major decision on Dean Gorans (113) to lead 7-0 before Zach Miller (120) cradled his opponent for the six points.
The score remained close as Chad Reece (126) registered a pin; Jake Gonzales (132) was pinned, before Elan Tubbs’ (138) late flurry in an 8-2 decision gave Ponderosa the lead for good.
Up 15-13, Colin Hustrulid (145) pinned his opponent in dominating fashion but the Broncos held strong when Robert Holloway was unable to escape and fell victim to a tech decision.
It was all Bruins after that. Zach Valasquez (160) notched a second period pin; Trae Providence (170) used a head and leg for a third period fall; TJ Shamblin (182) led 5-0 on the score clock before a restart led to his cradle and a 39-18 advantage.
The evening’s final match pitted Ponderosa’s Kyle Jennings (220) against Hayden Hovis. After a scoreless opening period, Jennings’ short-time near fall gave him a 2-0 lead going to the third. In the final period, Jennings escaped, scored a takedown and then tilted his was to the pin with 29 seconds to spare.
Notes: Bruin 195-pounder Joe DelValle and heavyweight Nathaniel Moody went unopposed Wednesday, worth 12 forfeit point for the Ponderosa’s side. The Escobar-Fox connection also extends down to the youth level as Ryan, Bryce and Christian run the Sierra Sabres, the Bruin youth program.