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La Cañada High wrestling has heavy hopes under new coach

Wrestling: Justin Luhey returns to Spartans as coach, with higher-weight classes looking to be strength.

December 03, 2013|By Andrew Shortall, Special to the Valley Sun
  • Spartans senior heavyweight Guillermo Padilla is poised to lead his team back into contention for a Rio Hondo League championship. (Tim Berger/File Photo)
Spartans senior heavyweight Guillermo Padilla is poised…

While some big changes are in place for the La Cañada High wrestling team this season, the Spartans will rely on the strengths they've enjoyed recently and historically.

For the first time in more than a decade, La Cañada has a new coach – Justin Luthey, a 2007 La Cañada graduate and former wrestling standout. When the former multiple-time Rio Hondo League champion and MVP first took over the program from longtime coach Gavin Williams on Aug. 6, his focus was on implementing collegiate-style practices.

Five months later and Luthey's pleased with his team's response, estimating he's averaging about 30 kids a practice, including the Thanksgiving Day workout.

“It's always good to have a big team, but it doesn't mean anything if they don't show up,” said Luthey, who has about 40 guys on the team. “The one thing I've been kind of challenging them on all year is mental toughness and our practices have been, in my opinion, a lot harder. They've really kind of rose to that and taken on that challenge.”

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The Spartans went 4-1 in league last season for second place. They will look to take back the Rio Hondo League title from San Marino, which snapped La Cañada's two-year championship run.

“I think they would be considered the favorite,” Luthey said of San Marino. “They're going to have some really good wrestlers there, too, so we're just going to put our best guy out there at each weight and see how it plays out.”

While San Marino will likely rely on its lower weights again this year, La Cañada will be anchored by its upper-weight divisions.

“That's still the strength of the team, it's good for me because I'm an upper-weight guy myself, so I am able to work with them more and work on their heavyweight-type of moves,” Luthey said. “It's always nice to have guys with experience at upper-weights because it usually comes down to them as the dual meet progresses.”

All three of the Spartans’ reigning league champions will be in the upper-weights, with heavyweight Guillermo Padilla anchoring that senior trio and the rest of the team. The senior will look to build on last year, when he suffered an early injury in the CIF Masters Meet and still just missed a chance to wrestle in the ninth-place match, with the top-nine placers moving on to state.

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