For both Christian Vrioni and Evan Coronel, this wrestling season was a time of unexpected success and impressive growth. The two Denair High athletes each showed flashes of the kind of potential that has their coach excited about their futures.
Vrioni, a junior competing at 157 pounds, and Coronel, a sophomore wrestling at 190, each made it to the second day of the Sac-Joaquin Sub-Section Meet last weekend in Sacramento before being eliminated. Those results came a week after the two Coyotes had fought their way to Southern League championships.
Denair Coach Bryan Herrington said Vrioni and Coronel each made big strides toward establishing themselves as among the top wrestlers at their weights heading into next season.
“If you add up his total wrestling experience, it’s less than six months,” Herrington said of Vrioni, who wrestled briefly as a freshman and not at all as a sophomore before rejoining the team this season.
As for Coronel, “The first time he sent foot on a wrestling mat was Oct. 26,” Herrington marveled.
At the Sub-Section Meet – which features the top wrestlers from all the small schools in the region – Vrioni and Coronel enjoyed first-round byes Friday because they were league champions.
Vrioni won his first match 7-4 over Hunter Schneider of Amador, then was pinned by Owen Keslinger of Amador, who went on to win the 157-pound title. That dropped Vrioni into the consolation bracket on Saturday. He pinned Ivan Chirskiy of Future to make the consolation quarterfinals. Needing one more win to make the top six and have a chance to qualify for this week’s Masters Meet, Vrioni was pinned by Gage Masters of Highlands in second period.
“I have zero complaints,” Herrington said. “He wrestled tough. He didn’t wrestle scared. … He’s going to keep wrestling in the offseason. I don’t see any reason he’s not competing at the Masters Tournament next year. I think that’s very impressive.”
Coronel also won his first match Friday, pinning Isaac Anderson of Wheatland in the first period. Like Vrioni, Coronel was beaten in the next match 9-6 by Lincoln Garel of Union Mine. His season ended Saturday morning when he was pinned by Saifubra Ghaws of Highlands in the first round.
“He went from knowing nothing to competing at the varsity level and being successful,” Herrington said of Coronel. “I cannot have any complaints.”
A third Denair wrestler, freshman Josiah Ruelas at 106 pounds, got into the Sub-Section Meet as an alternate and lost both his matches. “It was good experience for him,” Herrington said.
Vrioni, Coronel and Ruelas are expected to participate in the Denair youth wrestling program known as the Den run by Herrington. That season starts in mid-March and runs into first week of June. The weekly tournaments provide exactly the kind of competition that Denair’s young athletes need to improve.
“The goal every year is to get somebody in Masters, but I feel like next year, maybe we’ll get two or three,” Herrington said. “I’m very optimistic moving forward. I should have 10 to 15 returners on our team next year.”