When the Los Banos Tigers youth wrestling club first got together a few years back, there was a small group of charter members that set the foundation of what the organization has become.
Today, the six wrestlers of that class (Jimmy Felix, Marcus Carrillo, Gabe Mendoza, Noah Camacho, Markus Rico and Riko Quintana) are preparing for their senior campaign at Los Banos High.
"All six of those guys have a serious shot at going to state this year," Los Banos coach Josh Adams said. "I don't say that just because they're my wrestlers. Half of them are already ranked or honorable mention in the section.
"If we can get half of those guys, great. But I think our goal for the individual part of the season is to get those six guys to state. You obviously want to place as many as you can along the way, but those six, I've really committed myself to them."
During August, in that short window between the end of spring sports and before practice begins for football, Adams and his seniors hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls. There, near where the water tumbles off a thousand-foot cliff, the group talked about the goals for the season.
The wrestlers also showed off their conditioning.
"They kicked my butt. I'm a good hiker. I've done 30-mile hikes," Adams said. "I was expecting them to be a little more tired because it was summer, but they booked it up."
For Quintana, the memory of a 14-3 loss to Bret Harte's Caleb Storey in the seventh-place match of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament -- which left him one spot short of the state tournament -- was all too fresh in his mind.
"It's behind me, but I still think about it sometimes. I try not to," Quintana said. "(It taught me) not to give up. To not make it that close to where I have to have that match. I want to make it a sure chance to get to state."
Quintana is wrestling up two classes from last year (from 106 pounds to 120), which presents an entirely different challenge.
"It's a whole new ball game," he said. "I'm pretty small for my weight, so it comes down to technique."
As a team, the Tigers are looking to have a banner year -- and they mean that literally.
"We want a blue banner," Adams said, talking about a divisional title. "We've got an opportunity, we match up pretty well against Oakdale, and that's who we're looking for in the duals."
LB hosts several high school tournaments this year -- the Morning Star Invitational Dec. 22, the Western Athletic Conference championships Feb. 9 and the SJS Division 4 tournament Feb. 15 and 16, as well as a pair of youth meets.
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org>