Masters preview: Coach says he'll dye eyebrows if Placer wrestlers advance to State Meet

Del Oro sending 10 boys, Bear River 2
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Placer High School’s wrestlers just keep coming together as a team.

On Sunday, the Hillmen who are competing in Friday and Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters championships at the Stockton Arena met up in the wrestling room on campus to carry on a team tradition: Bleaching their hair blonde before heading to the tournament where bids to the prestigious State Meet will be on the line.

Ryan Talley, who was victorious in the 195-pound weight class at last weekend’s Div. III tournament, was in charge of giving his teammates new blonde hairdos. Mike Valdez, who wrestles at 138 pounds, said Talley did a terrible job and some of the boys’ hair came out orange at first.

Nonetheless, the Hillmen said at least they “all looked terrible together.”

Asked why they all collectively decided to change their hair color, Valdez said, “It’s kind of a tradition. The last time I remember so many people bleaching their hair was 2009 when the Maddoxes and their team went to Masters. We are kind of just paying our respects to them and keeping the tradition going.”

Six of coach Don Packheiser’s Hillmen will be competing on the mat this weekend. Placer is sending the most wrestlers from the PVL, with Lincoln (4) and Bear River (2) also being represented. The six-pack is tied for the highest amount in Div. III from one school along with Antelope.

Packheiser — who sports a chrome dome — didn’t encourage or partake in the hair-bleaching process.

But the coach, who said he’s more of a say-it-on-the-mat kind of guy, will join the festivities in his own unique way if any Hillman advances to the State Meet in Bakersfield held on March 1-2.

“If they go to state, I’ll dye my eyebrows, one green and one gold,” he said, alluding to Placer’s school colors.

That’s definitely something that’s motivating the Hillmen to bring their A-game.

To ensure Packheiser has to change his eyebrow color, Valdez said, we need to “go out there, wrestle one match at a time and not worry about any outside distractions.”

Last year Placer sent Mason Lenover to the Masters, but he didn’t qualify for the State Meet.

Also wrestling for Placer in the Masters this year are Myles Lenover (170 pounds), Josh Mason (126), Brendan Packheiser (152) and Will Thornton (182).

In order to advance, a wrestler must earn a top-seven finish in their respective weight class against the area’s finest grapplers.

“These are the best in Northern California basically,” Packheiser said. “It depends on how the other people do as well as how we are doing. I expect to take some guys to state. I expect this to be a state journey for us.  I’d have to say I’d be disappointed if we didn’t, but if these guys wrestle their best, I’m never disappointed in them.”

The coach has had his wrestlers tuning up and tweaking their moves over the past week.

“We’ve learned everything we’re going to learn this season,” said Packheiser, who held a joint practice earlier in the week with Lincoln and has been holding two-a-days during winter break. “We’re working on the moves the guys like to do.”

If Placer succeeds this weekend, Packheiser has one major concern about the State Meet.

“I’m not looking forward to the drive,” he chuckled.  

Eagles sending 10 to Masters

A large contingent of boys from Del Oro are also going to the Masters, which includes Isaac Blackburn (106), Clay Shropshire (113), Zach Ruybal (120), Jansen Engelbrecht (126), Tanner Robison (132), Johnny Zieour (145), Patrick Neu (160), Dylan Kainrath (170), Brandon Jeppson (182) and heavyweight Saul Meneses. 

Coach Dave Sanchez said he’s really excited about the possibilities this weekend.

“Practices have been really productive,” he said. “We have been working on the things we need to work on to improve all year. This week we have been working on situations we may find ourselves in when we are in a close match. This tournament means a lot to most guys so our opponents will be giving us all they have.”

Sanchez acknowledged that there going to be a lot of great wrestlers in the section at Masters, while adding that he feels Del Oro is bring a share of determined boys.

“It's been a great year for this team,” he said, “and if we wrestle our best this weekend, we could qualify several wrestlers to state.”

Two Bruins also qualified

The Bruins’ Travis McKnight (220 pounds) and Carter Danieli (106) will be representing Bear River at the meet.

Last week, Danieli advanced to Masters with a third-place finish at divisionals and a pin to cap it off. Danieli pinned Casey Burton of Antelope with just 11.7 seconds left in the match and now will participate in the Masters for the first time.

“This means that I just wrestled as hard as I can,” Danieli said. “Now I get to wrestle against the big boys, and I don’t care who it is.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel