1988 Antioch High School Wrestling Team
Steve Sanchez, an inductee into the Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame for his own wrestling career, coached the Antioch High School Panthers to a California Interscholastic Federation championship in 1988, the only wrestling team in AHS history to be state champions. The Panther grapplers were undefeated in every dual meet for the entire 1988 season, placing First in the Overfelt, Clovis Invitational, Sierra Nevada and San Martin Green and Gold Classic Tournaments. The DVAL and North Coast Section Champions were ranked as the best high school wrestling team in California by California Wrestler magazine and considered one of the top 10 prep teams in the United States. What made this team so successful? Being willing to devote many hours to practice and conditioning, according to Sanchez, as well as “the big commitment by their families.” Many of the team members began wrestling as young boys with the Golden State Wrestling Club, Sanchez said. Within the team there were seven individual league champions and 11 who qualified for the NCS tournament. Emerging as North Coast first place winners were Anthony Camacho (138 pounds), Jason Verduzco (165 pounds) and Sean Ponce (heavyweight). Also advancing out of NCS was William Pillon (98 pounds) in second place, Pat Sweeney (132 pounds) in second place and Casey Rhyan (145 pounds) in third place. Verduzco went on to become the overall California State Champion in the 165-pound class, while Sweeney and Rhyan placed third statewide, with Pillon coming in 5th in the 98-pound class. Verduzco was named to the High School All-America Dream Team by Wrestling USA Magazine, and later attended the the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. Camacho was a High School All-America Honorable Mention. He continued to wrestle on an athletic scholarship to California State University, Fresno. As a Bulldog, he qualified for the NCAA championships in 1991. Ponce (who had won a nationwide first place two years earlier in the USA Cadet Freestyle Championships) continued his athletic career at Brigham Young University as a football player and as a wrestler. Individual members of the 1988 team were: Benjamin Anteczak, Randy Byrd, Ron Bidgood, Anthony Camacho, Jeff Cooley, Bill Costa, David Del Chiaro, David Garibay, Mike Gonzales, Jay Hernandez, Eric Lynch, Joe McNamara, Charles Modlin, William Pillon, Gary Pitkin, Sean Ponce, Casey Rhyan, Steve Sauter, Tate Miller, John Soto, Pat Sweeney, Robert Thurgood, Steve Thurgood, Jason Verduzco, Vince Walker and Chris Wilson. Assistant coaches were Frank Orlando and Louie Fraire.