There’s a welcome sight inside the Agoura High wresting room.
“My first year, we only really filled up half the room,” said junior 126-pounder Darial Nishi. “Now the entire room is filled. It’s really nice to see that here.”
Agoura, which returned nine wrestlers, has 28 grapplers in the program.
Head coach Matt Breddan couldn’t help but smile while looking out onto the mat during a practice earlier this week. The Chargers trot out nearly a complete starting lineup.
“It’s a very encouraging sign for the future and the growth of the program,” the fifth-year head coach said.
With the growing numbers comes a higher level of competition for starting spots. Breddan said his lineup isn’t set in stone because every spot is up for grabs every week.
Agoura, which last claimed a Marmonte League title in 2000, will have its first league test of the season on the road against Newbury Park at 6:30 tonight.
“We have a lot of talent,” Breddan said. “It’s just a matter of who shows up on which days.”
Numerous Chargers showed up for Agoura during the de Toledo Jaguar Duals on Dec. 21. Agoura took first place at the tournament.
Brandon Sherwood, a senior 170-pound grappler, earned upper-weight class MVP at de Toledo.
Breddan said he expects a solid senior campaign from Sherwood, who claimed a Marmonte title at 182 last year.
Sherwood, who trains in mixed martial arts at Bas Rutten’s Elite MMA Gym, said the drop in weight was necessary.
“I wasn’t as lean as I could have been,” Sherwood said. “I feel comfortable here now.”
Sherwood, who has seven pins so far this year, went 2-2 at CIF last year.
“I’m rounding out my wrestling,” the senior said. “I came in doing a lot of judo stuff. The biggest thing was learning to untrain those habits. I used to be super reliant on throws. Now I’m trying to work in other things too to mix it up.”
Agoura has high hopes for senior 152-pounder Oren Rieder, a fourth-year varsity veteran and the only female grappler in the Charger wrestling room.
“I definitely have a lot of strength because I’m wrestling against guys at practice all the time,” Rieder said.
The senior started the season with a 10-4 record, with all of her victories coming via pin. She’s already had top-five finishes in four tournaments this year.
Rieder, who prides herself on her top game, spent the offseason prepping for her senior year by hitting the gym and attending practices at Thousand Oaks.
“I’ve just gotten better since last year,” she said. “I kept learning.”
Rieder, the younger sister of former Agoura wrestlers Benn and Ethan Rieder, constantly goes over her matches with her siblings. Benn Rieder, a 2010 graduate, is an Agoura assistant coach.
“Being able to talk about matches with my brothers when I get home helps a lot,” Oren Rieder said.
Nishi is a smart, savvy wrestler.
“I normally don’t use the moves that force you to use a lot of strength,” Nishi said. “I usually go for the easy moves that require more momentum and finesse.”
It’s a strategy he learned from training in aikido the past eight years.
“It’s certainly different from wrestling because wrestling is more in your face,” Nishi said. “Aikido’s more of an elegant art.”
Nishi’s competed at CIF the past two years. He’s hoping to get his first postseason win this winter.
“What I’m working on this year is my setups,” the junior said. “You can do any move on the planet, but if your opponent knows it’s coming, they’re just going to counter. I’m trying to make it so my opponent doesn’t know what I’m going to do next, make it confusing for them.”
Cooper Kennedy, a freshman 113-pounder, has also impressed Breddan this season.
Kennedy, a receiver and safety on the football field, said he knows there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
“Right now, I’m just trying to learn the basics,” the rookie said. “I’m just trying to get into a flow. I want to learn what works for me and what doesn’t.”
Ben Vais, a 113-pounder, Luke Fregoso (120), Colin Roser (138), Evan Nicol (138), Connor Schofield (152), Brendan Mustain (152), Aidan Peck (152) and Sean Nikpay (160) also compete for starting spots.
Breddan said he believes his team can compete for a top-three finish in the Marmonte, but this season’s success won’t be solely based on how many hands get raised.
“I don’t push the kids to place first,” Breddan said. “We tell these kids we want them to learn, be safe and have fun. If they do all those things, as far as we’re concerned, they’ve succeeded whether they win on the mat or not.”
Sherwood said the growing numbers are a good sign for the future of the Charger wrestling team.
“We have a lot of freshmen this year,” Sherwood said. “The coming years, the team will be in pretty good shape.”
The Chargers in a nutshell
• Matt Breddan (fifth season)
• Benn Rieder
• Jake Breddan
106- Aidan Moran, freshman
113- Cooper Kennedy, freshman
120- Brandon Ehrman, junior
126- Darial Nishi, junior
132- Ethan Goldenberg, freshman
138- Jake Brady, senior
145- Fabio Maggio, sophomore
152- Nick Brady, sophomore
160- Connor Schuda, freshman
170- Brandon Sherwood, senior
182- Taylor Lazarus-Juareguy, sophomore
195- David Kempton, sophomore
220- Cyrus Najera, senior
HW- Parker Lake, sophomore
Marmonte League opener
• Agoura vs. Newbury Park, 6:30 tonight at NPHS