Los Altos High wrestlers improve to 4-1 in whats been a challenging season

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
An emotional Gino Vega receives framed photos, including one with late coach Randy Jimenez, on Los Altos’ Senior Night.

Nick Testa admitted that his second tour as Los Altos High wrestling coach “has not been a piece of cake.” Not that anyone expected this season to be easy for him or his wrestlers.

Testa was hired to replace longtime coach Randy Jimenez, who died shortly after the 2015-16 season.

“The first half of the season was really tough for these kids – they missed Randy,” said Testa, returning to Los Altos after 16 years. “Hopefully, they’ve come along.”

Many of them haven’t stuck it out, however. Testa started the season with 27 wrestlers in the program (varsity and JV); he’s now down to 17.

“It’s a tough sport and a lot of kids quit,” the coach said. “Some of the guys who quit wrestled at weights we are forfeiting now.”

Los Altos is ceding three weight classes (152, 160 and 172 pounds) at every dual meet.

“It’s really killing me,” Testa said of the forfeitures.

Despite the challenges, the Eagles sit in second place in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division. They improved to 4-1 with Thursday’s 57-24 home win over Saratoga on Senior Night.

“We have good kids and raw kids,” Testa said of his team’s makeup.

The coach expects defending champion Los Altos to finish second in the division to undefeated Palo Alto, which beat his squad last month.

The Eagles are scheduled to cap their dual-meet season 6 p.m. Thursday at Santa Clara. The next day, Los Altos heads to the league finals at Fremont High, which conclude Saturday. The top five wrestlers in each weight class advance to the Central Coast Section championships, slated Feb. 24 and 25 at Independence High in San Jose.

Testa said he has five wrestlers who have a good chance at qualifying for CCS: Joey Donnelly (126 pounds), Gino Vega (145), Tyler Calderon (106), Austin Sonnentag (182) and Kyle Knepshield (113).

Donnelly is the defending league champ at 126. The senior has lost only two matches this season and prevailed 14-4 Thursday against a CCS-ranked opponent. Donnelly also picked up a decisive victory against Paly Jan. 19.

“Joey is really good; he’s been wrestling for eight years,” Testa said. “Joey is one tough wrestler – you know you’re in a match when you wrestle him.”

Donnelly is the team co-captain with Vega, who has just one loss this year.

“Gino has all the skills,” Testa said when asked about the senior’s strengths.

Sonnentag, a junior, placed third at the league finals a year ago. His younger brother, Aaron Sonnentag (106), and fellow freshman Jason Klemens (113) “both have a great future ahead of them,” Testa said.

Knepshield is new to the team – he wrestled his first match last week after transferring from Virginia – but the senior has already impressed the coach.

“He lost (Jan. 31 against Lynbrook), but we bumped him up two weights,” Testa said. “He gave a good effort.”

Knepshield wrestled at 120 pounds Thursday and pinned his opponent; junior Josue Martinez (138) also won by pin.

Luis Garcia (220) wasn’t able to compete in the meet. His season may have come to an early end due to what the coach described as “a jaw problem.” Testa ranked the junior among the team’s most-improved wrestlers.

“He’s really coachable,” the coach said. “He started slow and has gotten better and better.”

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