“Caden [Kestler] feels really comfortable being on top [in a wrestling match],” said head coach Kellen Delaney of La Jolla. “He really wants to work on getting out on bottom.”
Delaney, speaking during the annual Holtville Tournament, was discussing what the 113-pound wrestler was currently practicing: “In the neutral position, he wants to work on a different shot than the double-leg maneuver he already knows.”
Kestler, a freshman, is one of a stable of capable young wrestlers for the Vikings who complement senior Joshua Jasso, the two-time Eastern League champ at 197 pounds, and juniors Keegan Leonard (138) and Chase Maisel (152). Leonard won three straight bouts at Holtville after an opening loss to reach consolation round five. Last year, he placed sixth in the CIF Division 4 finals at 134 pounds.
The other young wrestlers for La Jolla, gaining strength as a team this season with a dominant 58-20 win at Cathedral Catholic in a dual meet, include sophomores Zeke Pearl (134) and Buzzy Bomberger (128). Newcomers are freshmen Ben Kasendorf (160), Steve Naitoh (heavyweight), and Brendan Glenister (220).
Pearl, who declared to no one in particular at the start of the two-day Holtville tourney, “I’m going to have 10 matches today and I’m going to win all of them!”, “is fantastically athletic and very competitive,” said Ryan Lindenblatt, former head coach from 2010-2015 and now an assistant coach. “He’s very aggressive with his takedowns.”
Kasendorf and Naitoh — the one big, the other bigger — provided some comic relief during the team picnic at the Holtville tourney provided by coach emeritus Walter Fairley. “He ate all beans,” said Big Steve, the heavyweight, of Kasendorf’s self-serve burritos at their host family’s house the night before. “Yuck. I don’t like the way the burrito came out.” Kasendorf: “I’m Jewish, so my family usually tries to eat only kosher meat. That’s why I ate all beans.”
“He ate six burritos,” the good-natured Ben fired back at his enormous teammate, wearing glasses off the mat, as team members hung out around picnic tables on the quad of the Imperial Valley campus. “No, I ate four burritos,” smiled Naitoh. “They were small.”
“Plus, he ate four hamburgers,” Kasendorf, not giving up, continued. They, then, broke a short time later to try football punting right next to the tables with new assistant coach Tirso “Junior” Lara. Pearl was throwing the ball up too high in the air before he punted, so that he couldn’t properly put foot to ball. “Here, I’ll show you,” interjected a reporter. “That kick didn’t go high enough,” retorted Pearl.
Bomberger subsequently placed fourth in the City Conference Championships, a great finish especially for a sophomore. Jasso took second in the event, hosted by La Jolla High. “Buzzy is that perfect combination every coach looks for: talent and hard work,” said Lindenblatt.
Delaney assessed his team at this point of development: “Joshua is a returning league champion at 197. Keegan and Chase are strong as juniors. Buzzy and Zeke are proficient and growing in their respective approaches.”