Denair’s Vrioni, Coronol earn SL wrestling titles, qualify for Sub-Section Meet this week

Two Denair High wrestlers – Christian Vrioni at 157 pounds and Evan Coronol at 190 – walked away with championships at the Southern League Meet on Saturday. The victories earned both a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Meet this weekend in Sacramento.

Vrioni, a junior, raised his season record to 14-10 by dominating his three opponents in Mariposa. He won by major decision (more than eight points) in the first round, then pinned his final two foes.

Coronol (14-7) is a sophomore who began the year on the junior varsity team and joined the varsity before Christmas. He had an impressive run through the SL dual-meet season, winning all seven of his matches to earn the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye Saturday. He turned heads again by pinning both opponents in less than 2 minutes.

Vrioni’s and Coronol’s performances thrilled Denair Coach Bryan Herrington, who has rebuilt the wrestling program this season despite not having any seniors.

“This area is a hotbed of wrestling and we competed in some of the toughest tournaments this year,” Herrington said. “Our guys learned from the competition they faced.”

Vrioni’s story epitomizes the Denair program, which finished last season with just two wrestlers on the team.

“Christian came out as a freshman, then quit by Christmas,” Herrington said. “I didn’t see him at all his sophomore year, but he came back this year and was named co-captain with Jesse (Ruelas Jr.).”

Ruelas Jr. (21-13) – who finished fourth at 150 pounds Saturday and is an alternate for the Sub-Section Meet – was Vrioni’s workout partner all year.

“That’s really upped Christian’s game very fast,” Herrington said. “It’s night and day difference between what Christian was at the beginning of the season and now. … At the beginning, he didn’t turn any heads and nobody paid much attention. By the end, coaches were coming up to me and saying, ‘Your 157 is pretty good.’

“I told Christian that if he kept putting in the work, it would pay off. The biggest thing now is he just looks confident.”

Coronol’s ascendance is equally impressive. He’s a first-year wrestler who had never been on a mat until October. He started at the JV level, but was so dominant that Herrington promoted him to varsity despite having a glut of wrestlers at the heaviest weights.

“He’s one of those kids that at the very beginning, Coach (Jesse) Ruelas (Sr.) and I looked at each other and said, ‘We might have something here.’ He won every JV tournament we put him in. He was way, way stronger than those kids,” Herrington said. “He just has the right mentality to get good fast.”

Coronol flexed his strength Saturday with two quick pins. In the finals against a Waterford wrestler, he again showed why his coaches are so high on him.

“They got locked up and if you’re going to go muscle-to-muscle with him, that’s a bad idea,” Herrington said. “Evan just threw him down and pinned him.”

The next step for Vrioni and Coronol is the Sub-Section Meet on Friday and Saturday at Rosemont High School in Sacramento. That’s where the top wrestlers from all the small schools from Merced to north of Sacramento will come together. The top four in each weight class will move on to the Masters Meet next week in Stockton, the final competition before the State Meet in Bakersfield.

“I don’t really know what to expect because they’re getting so good so fast. It just depends on the draw,” Herrington said of Vrioni and Coronol. 

Herrington had hoped to have more athletes competing this week, but disappointing performances, health and not making weight conspired against the Coyotes.

“I really thought we might get five or six kids into the Sub-Sections, but things don’t always happen the way you want,” he said. “You’ve got to take the good with the bad. There are a lot of things to be excited about. I have zero seniors this year, so I have everyone coming back.”

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