Denair Wrestlers Hope to Build on Last Year’s Success

DHS Coyotes Football

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Don Helnore was encouraged by the success of last year’s Denair High wrestling team, which finished third in the rugged Southern League. And though the Coyotes lost five seniors, the veteran coach is optimistic that his 16-man group can live up to similar expectations this time around.

Three wrestlers who qualified for the Division V Tournament return – senior Jordan Cervantes (132 pounds), junior Kyle Prock (138) and senior Kyle Perkins (220).

“For me, I want each guy as a returnee to improve and do better for himself and the team,” said Helnore, who has run the program for nine years. “For the new kids, I want them to find a love for the sport.”

In addition to Cervantes, Prock and Perkins, Helnore is high on 145-pound sophomore Blake Davis. “He’s already making big leaps from last year, when he really pushed some guys.”

The early part of the season features some regional tournaments and a handful of dual meets. For now, Helnore said the focus is on “conditioning and technique work.”

“We have a basic plan for all our guys. As you see them wrestle and move, you find out what they’re good at and build on that,” he said. “But like in any sport, you have a basic foundation that you teach.

“Right now, we’re working on stances, hand position, head position. What am I trying to do? Motion and movement. Once we get into league season, there’s more wrestling.” Continue reading “Denair Wrestlers Hope to Build on Last Year’s Success” »

DHS Wrestler Luis Mendoza Qualifies for Masters Meet

Luis Mendoza

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Flashing what his coach described as a “brute strength kind of move,” Luis Mendoza got the ultimate payback against a tough wrestling opponent – a pin.

The result was a third-place finish Saturday for the Denair High School senior at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championships and a trip to this week’s Masters Meet. It also touched off an enthusiastic celebration by his Coyotes teammates at the Sonora High gym.

Mendoza, competing at 197 pounds, was the only Denair wrestler to survive the rugged two-day tournament. The top four in each weight class advanced to the Masters. The next closest Coyote was Richard Richards, who finished sixth at 140 pounds.

Mendoza put himself in a difficult spot Friday when he was pinned by Anthony Howard of Bret Harte in his first match. He rallied to win two consolation bracket matches Friday to stay alive, then pinned his first opponent Saturday.

That set up a rematch with Howard, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the top four and a berth in the Masters Meet.

“It was back and forth, like the first match,” said Denair Coach Don Helnore. “This time, Luis caught the kid and pinned him. … Luis escaped a bear hug move and got his arms around him and just put him down on the mat.

“It was a real brute strength kind of move.”

With that, the Coyotes celebrated and Mendoza moved to the third-place match, where he used a pair of two-point reversals in the second and third periods to defeat Riverbank’s Jose Ariza.

“Luis almost pinned him at the end of the first round, but time expired,” said Helnore. Continue reading “DHS Wrestler Luis Mendoza Qualifies for Masters Meet” »

DHS Winter Sports Preview

DHS Coyotes Football

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

The gym is a busy place these days at Denair High School. The boys and girls basketball teams plus the wrestling team all have begun their winter schedules with an eye toward preparing themselves to compete for Southern League titles in January and February.

Boys Basketball

Despite a 10-player roster, third-year coach R.J. Henderson is confident the Coyotes have improved enough to contend for one of the league’s three spots in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

“I’d like to think the last week or two of the season we’ll be playing for something,” said Henderson, whose young team won just seven games a year ago.

This season, the Coyotes will benefit from a sizeable presence in the middle in the form of 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior center Ryan Galhano, who didn’t play last year. Henderson expects Galhano will be one of the most physical players in the Southern League.

Three other seniors – forwards Dominyc Silva and Chase Vann and guard Vince Fuentes – were named tri-captains.

Henderson said Silva has the mentality and savvy of a “35-year-old city league player.” He called Vann “a good glue guy” and rebounder who does many things to help a team. And he said Fuentes is “probably our best pure shooter with the most range.”

Junior guard Isaac Starks, who played on the varsity as a sophomore, rounds out the starting five. Henderson said he’s the team’s best option to create a shot off his dribble.

The small roster means if one player misses practice, an assistant coach has to step in to have a 5-on-5 scrimmage. Denair’s enrollment already makes it the smallest school in the Southern League. Despite that, Henderson thinks his squad will continue to build a new culture of success. Continue reading “DHS Winter Sports Preview” »

Denair High School Wrestling Coach Honored

Don HelnoreWhen Don Helnore took over the wrestling program at Denair High School six years ago, he had three athletes on his team. Two of them were girls. He knew he needed rekindle interest and recruit students, or the sport was in danger of being eliminated.

Fast forward to this past season. There were 21 athletes on the team – all freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The Coyotes finished third in the very competitive Southern League. Six wrestlers advanced to sectional or regional competition.

The work Helnore has done to rebuild the program has gained respect and attention. The Southern League coaches voted him Coach of the Year this season – an award that most often goes to the league champion. More importantly, there is enthusiasm and energy associated with wrestling that was not there before Helnore was hired.

“He’s worked extremely hard at turning around our program. There were not a lot of students when he took over,” said Denair Principal Aaron Delworth.

Helnore said he was able to convince 11 students to resume or take up wrestling in his first year. He also has developed a strong feeder program at Denair Middle School. In most years, six to 10 freshmen join the high school wrestling team.

“He’s spent a lot of time involving the middle school kids and building a program that goes right into high school,” praised Athletic Director Steve Doerksen. Continue reading “Denair High School Wrestling Coach Honored” »