New era of coaching for Lincoln High wrestling

VP Mall steps down
By: Joshua Gutierrez/Lincoln News Messenger
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Within the humid confines of the Lincoln High School cafeteria, head coaches Jay Foster and Nick Marquez sow the seeds for the Fighting Zebras’ 2012-13 wrestling season.

The vacancy left by former head coach and vice principal Mike Maul was neither a surprise nor unexpected. Rather, for the last several years, Foster had been groomed to eventually fill the role of head coach. To make the transition even smoother, Marquez joined the staff two years ago and will share those duties.

The entire coaching staff is comprised of only Zebras’ alumni, who all wrestled under Maul. Though the duo takes the reins from a coach who served the Zebras since 1999, the expectations for this season have not diminished.

With only three seniors graduating, a majority of Lincoln’s team from last year has returned.

Ero Wainio highlights the cast of returning wrestlers, after finishing last season one match shy of qualifying for State. The fiery senior has taken a full role in the team’s development, instructing teammates and taking charge in all aspects of practice.

Gabby Eslinger, who returns to the mat after off-season surgery, looks to rebound and recapture her form. Eslinger was ranked second in State and was the girls Sac-Joaquin champion at 108 pounds in 2011.

According to Marquez, Mike Gomez, who was expected to contribute to the team’s success, will be sidelined for the entire season after “flipping” his ACL.

Ryan Ojeda from Twelve Bridges Middle School and Jaden Martinez out of Glen Edwards Middle School are promising freshmen. The coaching staff expects many years of high performance from this duo.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” said Wainio, as to the team’s growth. “It’s going to be hard, but we’re looking for a second league title.”

Wainio’s desire to graduate as Pioneer Valley League champions is a thought shared with the coaching staff. They are optimistic about their chances. An added advantage for the Zebras is that the Pioneer Valley League Wrestling tournament will be hosted by Lincoln High.

The Zebras’ coaching staff was further encouraged by the graduating classes of last year’s top teams, Bear River, Foothill and Placer. All graduated a significant amount of talent.

Despite the optimism shared by the team, Coach Foster made it clear that this year’s team will be forged not by the diminished talent of other schools, but by the resolve of the athletes who represent Lincoln High School.

“We just got to wrestle everybody, come every day and wrestle,” said Foster. “And just let the chips fall.”