Fryer: No. 1 team features no stars
Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:
•San Clemente wrestling has no athletes ranked No. 1 in any of the county's 14 weight categories, yet the Tritons are No. 1 in the county team rankings. "We have no guys ranked in state and stuff like that," said Mark Calentino, in his 21st year coaching San Clemente wrestling. "But we do have a bunch of workers here, a very special group of kids."
•The Tritons won the Las Vegas Holiday Classic on Dec. 22, totaling 244 points to second-place finisher Victor Valley's 232. It was a showcase of 81 teams from eight states. San Clemente's Ash Ryan was champion at 197 pounds, and John Castellini was second at 140. Christian Orpineda finished third at 108, and Tim Parten was fourth at 134.
•Yorba Linda finished seventh and Irvine was 11th in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic wrestling event.
•The school with the most wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their county weight classes is Laguna Hills, with three: Martin Garcia (106 pounds), Wyond Mills (145) and Andre Cabrera (152). El Dorado and Santa Ana have two wrestlers each at No. 1 in the county individual rankings.
•The top three teams in the county wrestling team rankings are South Coast League teams: No. 1 San Clemente, No. 2 Laguna Hills (which lost to San Clemente in a league dual this month) and No. 3 Dana Hills. The South Coast League, which includes the strongest five teams from the Coast View Conference, also features Aliso Niguel and Capistrano Valley. They would be league championship contenders in many other county leagues.
•Mater Dei's boys and girls basketball teams are No. 1 in maxpreps.com's national rankings. The Monarchs boys and girls teams were state champions last season.
•That Mater Dei boys basketball team is ridiculously deep. In the Monarchs' three-quarter speed, 78-52 victory over San Bernardino on Wednesday in a first-round game of the Orange Holiday Classic at Chapman University, Coach Gary McKnight platooned two groups of five players, with each group playing in four-minute segments, and divided his top players among the two squads. Both squads dominated just about equally.
•Quick sketches of a few Mater Dei basketball individuals: junior forward Stanley Johnson is one of the better all-around players in Mater Dei history, and one of the more court-savvy guys the program has had; Jordan Strawberry is nearly mistake-free at the demanding point-guard position; and Elijah Brown is Kobe Bryant-like in his ability to score a zillion different ways.
•The very, very early leaders for county boys basketball player of the year are Mater Dei's Johnson, Orange Lutheran's Payton Banks and Mission Viejo's Evan Zeller. There is plenty of time for another name or two to join the competition.
•Junior Neil Pauu and sophomore Travis Waller were All-Trinity League for Servite's football team this past fall, and they are key contributors to the Friars' surprisingly good basketball team, too. They were named to the all-tournament team last week when Servite won the I-15 Norco Classic, for which the Friars' Louis Juego was named tourney most valuable player.
•One of the county's more improved girls basketball teams is at Loara. The Saxons had only two victories two seasons ago, finished 11-16 last season under then first-year coach Dan Davidson, and are 7-5 this season while playing a challenging schedule. Top players include senior point guard Ashley Wada and sisters Cilla and Lauga Gauta.
•Four county football players are on the West roster for the Semper Fi All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 at Home Depot Center in Carson: Eric Bunte (Mission Viejo), Thomas Duarte (Mater Dei), Sean Harlow (San Clemente) and John Lopez (Orange Lutheran).
•Canyon's hiring of ex-Orange Lutheran coach Jim Kunau as its football head coach got plenty of attention, and rightfully so. But don't neglect Fountain Valley football's hiring of ex-Cypress coach Ray Fenton. Fenton will have as much positive impact at Fountain Valley as Kunau will at Canyon.
•Anybody else out there waiting to hear that ex-Tesoro and Estancia football head coach Brian Barnes is going to replace his father John Barnes as Los Alamitos football coach? Or that Brian joins the staff as an assistant coach for 2013 in a transition phase to replace his dad in '14?
•El Dorado's football coaching position, vacated when Shawn Racobs resigned shortly after the 2012 season, remains open, as does the one at Esperanza. El Dorado athletic director Steve Gullotti said via email that the school's goal is to announce its football head coach on or before Jan. 18.
•Five county teams were included in the final state football rankings, as compiled by CalHiSports.com: No. 10 Mater Dei, which finished at 11-3; No. 13. Mission Viejo (11-1); No. 14 Edison (which led the county in victories, 13-2); No. 17 Santa Margarita (9-3); and No. 25 El Toro (9-2). CalHiSports.com's top three state football teams were 1. De La Salle; 2. Centennial of Corona; 3. Narbonne of Harbor City.