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Skyhawks are on the upswing with Metro League district contenders, better numbers

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Southridge sophomore AJ Melz is a defending Metro League district champion for the Skyhawks.

No wrestling program, or athletic department in general for that matter, was leveled like Southridge when Mountainside opened three years ago.

The amount of talent in the Metro League across all sports has not boomed as expected over the last decade due to all kinds of different circumstances depending on who you talk to. Participation numbers were down already. Yet with fewer and fewer families moving into the area a new school being planted just a few miles down Scholls Ferry Road spelled trouble for the Skyhawks.

Look no further than this recently completed fall season. The football team flourished and is trending toward elite status. The volleyball team took fourth at the state tournament. The girls' soccer team reached the Class 6A state championship game. Of course, there were transfers from Aloha, Beaverton and Westview that had large hands in that success. But predominately it was former Southridge athletes who were either zoned into Mountainside by the school district or openly decided to transfer that made up those eminent rosters.

Southridge saw this coming, but its hands were tied. The Skyhawks were rendered rather powerless as Mountainside has quickly morphed into an Optimus Prime-like demigod. Imagine melding the Mavericks' athletes with Southridge's current crop, as it could have been.

The wrestling team was pilfered from, too. Watching ex-Skyhawks wearing Maverick singlets, pinning their former Southridge teammates last year must have been surreal. But under the guidance of head coach Camden McFarland, there are positive signs, trends that the Skyhawks are far from sunk.

"Our team is building for the future," McFarland said. "We will be more competitive as a team than we were last year. Last year we were a better team than the year before. So, things are improving. We have better numbers this year, so we are looking at being able to fill all the possible weight classes."

The girls' program is growing, thanks to incumbent wrestlers who worked hard in the offseason to promote the sport. There are studs such as defending district champ Andy Melz and state qualifiers such as AJ Peralez. Southridge was one match away from having a state placer last year in Melz. The year before the Skyhawks had two state placers.

"I expect us to be back on the podium at the state level this year," McFarland said. "Last year we took four to state and this year I think we can improve on that with six to eight. This would be a great sign of our program heading in the right direction."

Peralez is Southridge's senior leader who McFarland expects to have a great senior year. The senior captain finished strong last year at districts and qualified for state. Dominic Feliz returns from his stellar freshman year. The sophomore never wrestled before and ended up finishing third at districts and won a match at state. Melz returns as the Skyhawks' most decorated wrestler. He had a stellar freshman year going 30-16 overall, won the district championship at the 106-pound weight class and just missed out placing at state by one match.

"Melz definitely has a chance at repeating as a district champion for us," McFarland said. "I think we have some guys who will place and possibly go on to state but it's too early to really predict that."

Senior Brock Jacobson, sophomore Francisco Endi and Ethan Horner will be district contenders as well.

"We are hoping to build and improve from last year," McFarland. "We hope to be in the middle of the pack. In the last two years we've had low numbers, but they have been increasing since my first year three years ago. We are very youthful with the majority of our team with freshman and sophomores."

McFarland believes the Metro title will come down to Aloha and Westview. Aloha has a lot of returning wrestlers with great experience. Westview has some great returning wrestlers and the biggest team in terms of numbers.

"That will definitely help them in districts because they will have a full varsity and JV line-up scoring points," McFarland said. "It's hard to say who will win between the two but they both are far above everyone else in our league."

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