By Centerspread Editor Mallika Gupta & Staff Writer Hannah Chou
More than 70 high school teams from across CA gathered for the 42nd annual MSJ Invitational Wrestling Tournament on February 3 and February 4. Organized by Athletic Director and Wrestling Coach Thomas Thomsen, this two-day event showcased matches between about 400 wrestlers, including MSJ Senior Shawn Pham and Juniors Michael Crawford and Lance Renteria. As a team, MSJ placed 44th overall, with Crawford placing fifth in his weight class. Clovis High School, ranked second in the state and seventh in the nation, won the tournament.
The MSJ Invitational Wrestling Tournament was first organized by former Wrestling Coach Mike Ruiz 42 years ago, with Thomsen taking over nine years later. What started off as a local tournament with just 16 teams has now expanded to an invitational, attracting wrestlers from all around CA, with each weight class using the 32-man bracket double elimination format. Thomsen said, “To me the numbers don’t matter. It’s the quality of the wrestlers … We normally ask that you only bring your best of the best … and that way we can allow 70 teams to come.”
Prior to the tournament day, wrestlers from MSJ set up four mats in the Main Gym and two mats in the Mini Gym, with scoring tables at each mat. Thomsen made sure that members of the MSJ team who aren’t wrestling in the tournament were trained to manage the scoring tables at each mat. Thomsen was also assisted by Larry Katz, father of MSJ alumni, who has been volunteering to help organize the tournament for over 25 years.
The invitational received positive feedback from both members of the MSJ community and teams from other schools. Junior Lance Renteria said, “I think this tournament is a really good tournament. There are state placers [and] state teams that come here [to compete]. The competition is really hard, but it’s good.” Clovis High School Wrestling Coach Adam Tirapelle believes that the invitational was helpful for his team, which is currently second in the state. “The invitational has a lot of the best wrestlers from [NCS], which is good for us because we are from a different area, so we try to come out and see different people every now and then,” Tirapelle said.
In the future, Thomsen hopes to implement more technology in the tournament, such as live-streaming final matches, to help the tournament grow further. Thomsen hopes that next year, with more seniors on the team, MSJ Wrestling will perform better at the tournament. “I think you can always do better than what you did. Again, that’s just the coaching side of me in that I don’t think there is perfection in wrestling because you can always get better,” said Thomsen.
Photos by Centerspread Editor Mallika Gupta & Staff Writer Hannah Chou