Thrall returns to Los Altos High to run wrestling program

Although it could make for claustrophobic conditions in what Jim Thrall described as “the closet we call a wrestling room,” Los Altos High’s new coach hopes more students will join the team.

“We don’t have two full squads of varsity and JV boys,” he said. “I’d love to have more wrestlers in the 106(-pound) range and 270.”

Thrall, hired last month, noted that as many as 24 wrestlers attended practice last week. He estimated that five or six of them were girls.

“That’s a good percentage (of the team),” said Thrall, who has been coaching the sport for 25 years. “If we get eight, we’ll have a girls team.”

He has scheduled separate tournaments for the girls, “if coaching is available,” he added, though they are also welcomed to compete with the boys.

“I will never make a girl wrestle a guy,” Thrall said, “but they always have the option.”

Thrall’s daughters don’t wrestle, but they did play a part in his decision to apply for the coaching position. He was already familiar with Los Altos because his younger daughter is a sophomore at the school and the older one graduated from there last spring. In addition, Thrall spent three seasons as an assistant to Eagles’ longtime wrestling coach Nick Testa in the 1990s.

“That made it more appealing,” Thrall said of his ties to the school, “and it feels very comfortable.”

Athletic director Michelle Noeth is hopeful that Thrall – the team’s fourth coach in five years – will stick around for a while.

“He is very passionate about making the wrestling program vibrant again,” she said.

Thrall noted that turning around a team that finished near the bottom of the SCVAL El Camino Division last season will take time.

“My commitment is to a program,” said Thrall, who coached the Gunn team for four seasons after leaving Los Altos in 1998 and then spent multiple years at Menlo-Atherton, Leland and Yerba Buena before returning to the local school. “It takes five years to develop a program in any sport.”

However, that doesn’t mean he’s throwing away this season. If Thrall is able to pack Los Altos’ undersized room with wrestlers, he is confident the Eagles can compete in the El Camino Division.

“A lot depends on how we stack our deck,” said the former college wrestler. “If we fill all our weight classes, I think we can contend favorably with Mountain View, place some wrestlers in league and advance to CCS.”

The Eagles’ league opener is scheduled 6:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at rival Mountain View.

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