Community Focus (CF): The wrestling team at CP has quite a tradition of success. Tell me more about that legacy and how it continues today.
Jim Keck (JK): The College Park wrestling program has been blessed with long-term dedicated coaches/teachers who are on campus. Teacher/coach John Owings started the winning tradition with a NorCal Championship in ‘66. Then CP Alum and teacher, Tim Rhyan, a football and wrestling star during CP’s early years, led the team to three consecutive undefeated seasons in ‘74, ’75 and ‘76. Clyde Forrest was next, followed by Cory Salmon who ushered in the modern era of success for Falcon wrestling. During the following thirteen years as a teacher/coach, Salmon led the team to five league championships and two top-ten finishes at State. I wrestled for Salmon from ’84-‘89 and took over in ‘96. The team has captured ten more league championships, four NCS championships, and finished in the top five in NCS on eight other occasions. Between Salmon (who is still assisting with the program) and myself, there has been continuity in the program since ‘84. Additionally, we have had the bonus of long-time assistants Leroy Rivers since 1990 and David Smith since 2001.
Another prong to our success is our club/feeder program. Pleasant Hill Wrestling, pioneered by Coach Salmon in ’94, nurtures the College Park wrestlers as well as student/athletes from other area schools.
Lastly, we’ve had the advantage of fantastic parent support in the community year in and year out.
CF: This season's team dominated the First-Team All DVAL selections. How did you assemble such a successful squad?
JK: We had a great group of young men with a senior dominated squad. Many started their careers as youngsters in the Pleasant Hill Club. All of them took great pride in the program and worked together to lead the entire team to a stellar finish. Hard work is infectious, and the wrestlers at all levels came prepared to work. We had many talented kids this season, all sharing one thing in common: Commitment.
CF: Brian Sergi went on to win a state CIF wrestling title. Very prestigious! Brian was a three-time NCS champion. Tell me more about him, his work ethic, etc.
JK: A state title in California is a huge deal. There are 1522 high schools in the state. California is one of only two states to host a unified state meet with only one division crowning one "true" state champion per weight each year. Brian did that this year against some very talented competition. Brian was also recently named Honorable Mention HS All-American by Wrestling USA.
Brian worked year-round since 6th grade to make himself a better wrestler. He wrestled with the Pleasant Hill Club and others. On weekends, Brian traveled as far away as Stanford and San Jose for extra practice and technique time. He trained in Mixed Martial Arts including Judo, Ju-Jitsu, and Stick Fighting, all of which helped hone and round out his wrestling.
CF: What does the complexion of next year's team look like?
JK: We will have a young team next year, and no returning NCS place winners. Our last young team was in 2004. Just two years later, that young team won NCS and had nine NCS placers. Can this group of underclassmen repeat history? That is yet to be seen…there are definitely some dark horses in the mix.
CF: Wrestling is just one way a young athlete can complete an education. Are there any wrestlers going on to compete at the next level?
JK: Yes, Brian Sergi will be attending Appalachian State, Alex Encarnacion will attend UC Bakersfield, and JJ Chou will attend SF State.
This was Coach Jim Keck’s 17th year (15 years as Head Coach). Keck is a 1989 CP Alum and was 4th in NCS in ’88 and 1st in ‘89. He wrestled at both Chico State and UC Davis. Coach Keck was named NCS Honor Coach of the Year 2004 and CC Times Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2007.