Returning to coach the Los Altos High wrestling team after 16 years away from the program, Nick Testa admitted he has no idea what this season holds.
“I don’t have any expectations, other than that I want every kid who comes out to last the whole year,” he said. “It’s a tough sport, and I don’t want to see anyone quit.”
Testa also would like to avoid the kind of season he experienced when he first took over the team in 1991.
“My first year, we were 1-12,” he said. “I don’t want that again.” The Eagles steadily improved over the next few years and won their first league title in 1995.
Two years later, Testa was named the Central Coast Section Honor Coach for his sport. Monica Lodge, Los Altos High’s athletic director at the time, applauded the decision by calling him “an outstanding, competitive and enthusiastic coach.”
When Testa stepped down in 2000, it wasn’t because his enthusiasm for coaching had waned; he said it was due to the demands of his other occupation and raising two kids. Testa and wife Sue owned and operated the Italian Delicatessen on Main Street, which was far more than a 9-to-5 job.
“I had to quit because of the hours,” the former Los Altos resident said. “When I took the team to a Saturday tournament, Sue was left alone to run the place.”
The Testas sold the business in 2004 and Nick took a job as a real estate agent with Sereno Group in Los Altos.
“It allows me more flexibility than when I ran the deli,” said the grandfather of four.
Testa added that he was tempted to return to Los Altos a few years ago as an assistant to Randy Jimenez, one of his former wrestlers, but decided he was better suited to be a head coach.
Then in February, Jimenez died of an apparent heart attack after nine seasons running the program. When Testa got the bad news from Jack Smith, one of his former wrestlers and now an Eagles assistant coach, “That blew me away,” he said. “Forty-three is way too young to die.”
Los Altos High administrators announced in the spring that they were seeking Jimenez’s replacement, and Testa applied. He was hired before school let out for the summer.
“It’s great to be back – I really missed coaching,” Testa said. “The passion’s always been there, but my bones don’t feel like they did back then. That’s why I need so many assistant coaches.”
Charles Olaires is back as the full-time assistant coach, with Smith, Brian Gerhold and Dan Bradley serving as part-time assistants. Testa said he would like to add a few more former Los Altos wrestlers to the staff.
Practice began Monday. Testa said last week he wasn’t sure how many students would come out for wrestling – 27 boys and six girls attended an informational meeting in mid-October – but he’s hoping to fill out every weight class.
“We’re starting at step 1,” Testa said of how he will approach training his team. “We’ll start with conditioning, learning the moves and then live wrestling. If you don’t know the moves, you can’t do live wrestling.”
Testa added that he is in the process of entering the Eagles in some tournaments prior to league. The Eagles’ initial SCVAL El Camino Division meet is slated Jan. 5 against visiting Homestead.