2016-02-05 / Sports
Pioneers seize league crown
Simi Valley wrestling team captures its the second championship since 2001
Simi Valley High’s wrestling team wallowed in the shadows of rival Royal, looking up at the Highlanders as they stood tall atop the local wrestling circuit for the better part of a decade.
Those days are a distant memory. Simi Valley has seized the throne.
The Pioneers put an exclamation point on a perfect run through the Coastal Canyon League by toppling the Highlanders 48-24 on Jan. 28 at Royal to claim the hardware.
“We’ve been training for this since last year, after our last dual,” Simi Valley junior 195-pounder Jesus Coronado said. “I guess it paid off.”
The title is the program’s first since Simi Valley earned a Marmonte League crown in 2012, and second since 2001.
“It was weird because it was the first time I’d been on the opposite side in 14 times I’d either coached or wrestled on the Royal side,” second-year Pioneers head coach Chad Davidson said. “To win it at Royal, there was something very special about it.”
Simi Valley captains Coronado and seniors Tanner Lloyd, Jacob Dunn and Jackson Brazeal rolled up to the dual in style. They entered in a black stretch limo, provided by Lloyd’s father’s company, Lloyd’s Limousine Service.
It was the first time the Pioneers showed up to a league dual ready for a red carpet event. Davidson said the idea came up earlier in the day. He had no problem with the flashy entrance—as long as the Pioneers keep winning.
Senior captains lead this batch of Pioneers.
Tanner Lloyd, a 120-pounder, is a hardnosed grappler. Davidson said it’s tough to keep the senior, who battled numerous injuries throughout the winter, out of the wrestling room.
“Even when he was sick, he’d at least show up to watch what’s going on and be there for the guys,” the coach said of Lloyd.
Lloyd, who took second at league at 120 pounds last season, said a league title was a farfetched notion when he first joined the team.
Dunn, a 160-pounder, is a vocal leader. Davidson said Dunn’s desire to succeed helps him thrive on the mat.
Dunn often started his bouts slowly last year. He would dig himself into holes before flipping a switch to earn a pin.
“He’d just turn it on and beat the guy,” Davidson said of Dunn. “We told him to get that mentality at the beginning of the match so he doesn’t fall behind. That’s what he’s done this year.”
Dunn took second place at the West Coast Classic at Rosemead.
The senior said he’s ramped up his aggressiveness.
“The past years I would say I was kind of scared to shoot,” he said. “Since I’ve overcome that, I’ve been the more dominant wrestler by attacking first and getting the first takedown, setting the pace.”
Davidson said Coronado, who skipped football season to focus on wrestling, is the team’s most improved grappler.
Coronado is on pace to break the school’s single season pins record; he’s racked up 29 pins in 30 victories this winter. He needs five wins by fall to tie the record of 34 set by Eric Hasan in 2009.
Zane Romney, who suited up at Royal last year, provides extra firepower for the Simi Valley lineup. After sitting out for 30 days per CIF-Southern Section transfer rules, the sophomore took third at the Sam DeJohn tournament. He narrowly missed placing at Five Counties.
Benjamin Campbell, a 145-pound junior, credits Davidson for stabilizing a proud program. The Pioneers rifled through coaches for years after the retirement of Guy Greene, who led the Pioneers for 34 seasons.
“He’s helped us tremendously,” Campbell said of Davidson. “During my freshman year, we didn’t really have the best program. Having him come in has really transformed us. All the kids work hard. It’s all because of Chad.”
“I walked into a group of kids with great work ethic,” he said. “They were able to handle me and my somewhat strict, rigid practices. It really exceeded my expectations.”
The Pioneers are on top of the Coastal Canyon League perch.
It will, however, always be a challenge staying one step ahead of Royal: The Highlanders have a feeder program, the Simi Valley Vandals youth squad.
Simi Valley is not deterred.
“We always say we’ll train them and we’ll get them ready real quick,” Davidson said. “We’ll ‘microwave’ them. We’ll get them done really fast. We don’t have the slow cooker.”