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Steve Koch, head coach at Ramona, complains that, in contrast to the spacious digs of the Munday Center, his wrestling room consists of an “old gym where we have to move the mats out every day.” Noting Poway’s ability to attract transfers, he quips, “We do the best we can with what’s out there — and there isn’t much. Last year, we had our best season ever — and we still finished second behind Poway.” Nonetheless, Koch allows, “Wayne Branstetter is a good man.”

Perry Watson, who holds the reins at Westview, goes a bit further. “Half of their starting lineup isn’t from Poway — they draw the best athletes. If I had five or six transfers a year like they do…” The affable Watson seems awed by the Titan machine. “Their entire B team would be starters on my A team, and even 60–70 percent of their C [team] could start.”

But the most outspoken by far is Victor Richmond, head wrestling coach at Mount Miguel in Spring Valley.

Richmond, who calls Poway High School a “bully,” charges that Poway power has been perpetuated partially by bending — or even breaking — the CIF rules that govern recruiting and transfers. He says that out of the 14 “A” varsity wrestlers on the 2011–2012 squad, six “should have” been pounding the mats at other schools. “If you transfer athletically — motivated athletically — and every one of those kids went into Poway off an athletic transfer — it’s not allowed. We’re not talkin’ about ‘any type’ of transfers. One took a second at the California State meet. One took a fourth and another took a fifth at the Master’s. We’re talkin’ about the best kids around.”

Among Richmond’s more incendiary allegations is that Poway wrestling boosters have furnished bogus local addresses for star wrestlers. “Let’s take [current Titan standout] Victor Lopez, for instance. Lives out in Calexico. Key words — still lives in Calexico. Let’s be real. You know the Poway district, you know the area. A lot of the people in Poway do a little renting. Some people have a little money, where they can get one of them apartments. Jesse Taylor transferred in his freshman year — still lives in Murrieta — I know where he lives. A lot of those people are puttin’ up kids; they’re protectin’ their own, that’s all. Stevie Cervantes transferred from Eastlake. Another guy came from Imperial High School. The Doyles, [they] should’ve been at Ramona. Ralphie Tovar should be in the San Bernardino area. I really don’t know how they got there. How the hell do you get six kids of that caliber to transfer in? It’s just not fair.”

In 2008, Richmond was among a contingent of local wrestling coaches who sent a protest letter to the CIF, whose commissioner at the time was Dennis Ackerman. (According to a U-T article posted on September 25, 2008, “more than 15 coaches submitted allegations.”) However, after a lengthy investigation, the CIF concluded that there was no basis to impose sanctions against Poway. But Richmond levels charges of favoritism: “Ackerman’s son played baseball at Poway…he [Ackerman] turned a blind eye to a lot of what went on. Some of us are scrutinized by the CIF under those same rules they’re lettin’ these guys get away with. It’s just frustrating.”

Richmond also claims that the Titans have violated CIF rules by attempting to lure younger wrestlers to the Munday mats. “I got two emails from a guy who says that Poway’s havin’ a luncheon for 20 junior wrestlers — recruiting — which is illegal. They’re currently in junior high. You know, when you got a tournament, you see a kid wrestle real good, you get one of those Poway boosters to talk to the kid: ‘We could make you a state champ over at Poway.’ In Minneapolis [summer wrestling camp], I was standing there when one of the assistant coaches at Poway was recruiting Sammy Cervantes for the heavyweight class the incoming year. He was a senior, transferring out of Imperial High School.”

When I told Richmond that Branstetter and his alums say that most of their wrestlers are “home-grown,” Richmond shot back, “They all lie.”

Richmond disputes the notion that Branstetter’s work ethic is key. “Hard work. Yeah, whatever. Really? They’ve been doin’ the same thing we do. There’s nothin’ special about what they’re teaching them. It’s just wrestling. I can tell you he don’t work no harder than I do. Since 1987, since I’ve been coaching, nobody can say I recruited a kid out of his room. ‘We don’t have the best athletes — we make ordinary kids great’? It’s such a lie. They just got Connor King from Colorado. He’s ranked #2 in the state. I get raw athletes — most of them in ninth grade — and teach them to wrestle. I don’t critique a kid that somebody else taught how to wrestle.”

Sour grapes?

“That’s bullshit. Sorry.”

Richmond and his compatriots complain of “stacking” and say that Poway’s roster is so deep that it deprives San Diego County of greater representation at the California championships. “Those kids are being stockpiled in that room, because you can only get one kid per weight class. They have possibly two state medalists in that room at [a certain] weight; one should’ve been somewhere else.”

Branstetter steadfastly disputes Richmond’s accusations of cheating. “Six transfers? That’s a blatant lie. There are three. One moved in from Colorado. One kid, Cervantes — his brother wrestled for us a couple of years ago — the family moved from Eastlake and came to Poway. Another kid, Jara, came from Imperial; his dad was a wrestling coach who didn’t want to coach anymore and wanted his boy to be at a better school.” Lopez’s parents still live in Calexico? “That’s a lie. Lopez was in Poway schools in sixth through ninth grades, then his mother changed jobs and went back to Calexico for four months. I wouldn’t call Lopez a transfer. That’s it. Big deal.

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stupidflanders19 Feb. 29, 2012 @ 4:52 p.m.

Victor Richmond is a jealous little man. Poway High's C team can wipe the mat with Mt Miguel's A team and has been doing it for 30 years. I bet the 8th grade wrestling team at Twin Peaks middle school in Poway would give them a run. If you can't win by trying, then start crying. Loser


Oldwrestler March 2, 2012 @ 5:58 a.m.

I have to say, that I loved the article. I know Coach B very well, in fact I was a member of his very first team that he ever coached in '73-'74 at Channel Islands HS in Oxnard, Ca. I wasn't the best by any means, but I greatly improved with him as our coach. He taught us life lessons, although we did not know it then. I graduated the following year, '75 and went on to join the Navy and wrestled and officiated for several years while on active duty. After retiring, I got into coaching our local HS and Middle School's teams until retiring in '05. I still stay in touch with Coach and his wife as well as several other old team mates. If anyone ever accused him of any wrong doing, just does not know him as well as those of us who have had the great pleasure of being on the mat with him. When he does retire, I will be there. With the Greatest Respect, William Moore, Monmouth, Maine aka: Oldwrestler


Greco_Star March 2, 2012 @ 11:29 a.m.

It never gets old but Poway has a reputation of being Cry Babies. For Example: When I used to help coach Fallbrook after coming from one of the powerhouses back East, we had a great 215 pounder who was called the "Experiment" that was wrestling in a tournamnet that included Poway. During the seeding process, All of the Poway coaches were trying to get their kid in a better seeding by knocking our guy down in the brackets. The Head coach and I just sat there smiling, we did not care where our kids were seeded because if you were "Truely" the best then who cares whether you are seeded or not? The Asst coaches were yelling to get our guy to be seeded lower. I stood up and said to each and everyone of them in a low whisper, "See you in an open tournament, may God have no mercy on you, cause I will not" I not only whipped one but two of the Asst coaches in one tournament, The Head coach "B" would not even look at my direction. Ask anyone up North about Poway and just see them shake their heads.


1happyguy March 4, 2012 @ 1:12 p.m.

I am not sure your point has to do with 'cry babies" Congratulations on winning the matches, but coaches should be advocates for their players. I am sure what you said is correct, but is pointless. I didnt go to Poway, and I live in North County, I dont shake my head. I am actually proud that someone in SD challenges Bakersfield and Clovis. I am actually happy that parents raise money, and get their kids involved early in wrestling. I personally know it takes some hard work and dedication to build a program like that, and it is obvious everyone else is struggling to do it, and crying because they cant.


1happyguy March 4, 2012 @ 1:08 p.m.

What a great article. I wish more kids thought of wrestling as a sport option. I applaud Poway for building such a dynamic program. In fact, most other coaches should also applaud and wish they had a program like this, so it would help evolve the sport. Additionally, I am sure there is some truth to some of the coaches complaints, but 99% is probably just jealousy. This is sad because they are suppose to be coaches, leaders, mentors, and role models for our kids. I think some of those coaches mentioned, shouldnt be coaches. Great Job Poway and Wayne...Sounds like you deserve all of the success you are earning!


jdboone March 6, 2012 @ 9:16 a.m.

pretty tough to name a state champ that wasn't home grown and made his way up the ranks starting in Slammers


SILVERBACKSWRESTLING March 28, 2012 @ 11:26 a.m.

I believe in the Homegrown Phenomenon... especially, when my teammates and I from 96-99 were fierce rivals with Calvary Chapel and hated them for recruiting...Why would we do the same? In fact we made it our Poway Slogan in 99 "Poway Homegrown," because of the ridiculous recruiting by teams like Calvary, St. Edwards, Blair Academy (all were private schools and could recruit). On the other hand, we (Poway Wrestlers) with the exception of Brody Barrios and Andy Kim did not start wrestling until Jr. High or as Freshman. As an 8th Grader, I didnt know a single thing about wrestling moves, other than what I saw from WWF. I was devastated being cut from the basketball team at Twin Peaks for not making sprints, and also for being a little uncoordinated and clumsy. Nonetheless, a friend of mine urged me to join the wrestling team @ 8th Grade. Mr. Barrios and the Factors thought me the bear hug, and then I fell in love with wrestling from there on. I HATED the sprints at first, but I knew it was necessary to last long in a match. This was the first step on building "Mental Toughness." I wanted to move like Muhammad Ali! I told coach, "I want to learn how to shoot," and my sophomore year, Coach brought in alumni Chad Totina, the "littlest heavyweight" I ever met. However, he thought me the John Smith Low Single and Coach Barrios thought me the Japanese Wizer... for a long time this was my main "TOOLS IN THE BOX." Coach Branstetter provides you, "TOOLS FOR SUCCESS" and everyday a wrestler practices moves and uses these tools to get advantage over one's opponent. "Like in any PROJECT, a guy needs the proper tools to finish the job... use the moves we teach you and put it on your box... eventually, you'll have all the tools you need to be successful at any project." (Coach Alan Toretto, Fall 96). Coach Branstetter and the Poway wrestling staff handed me tools to use in winning my STATE CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS MATCH in '99... by my Senior I was one of the most agile HWTs in the country, but I would have never reached my goals if it wasn't for the Sprints, the Long Distance Runs, Muhammad Ali, Coach Branstetter, and POWAY WRESTLING.


SILVERBACKSWRESTLING March 28, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

These days, I am building my own wrestling program at Ridgeview HS in Bakersfield Area with the principles that I have observed from the Poway Wrestling Program... building a youth program and a high school program together. (HOMEGROWN). What I have learned from Poway is that you always need to surround yourself with good people, have an extreme amount of patience, dedicate your time, and if you don't know the answer, communicate, and seek for proper solutions. With rival team POWERHOUSE Bakersfield HS, I could easily have "sour grapes" like other San Diego coaches complaining about Coach Branstetter's transfers, but I believe in Coach B's principle of not worrying what others are doing, and that you can only control what you yourself can accomplish or is currently doing... success will likely be achieved as long you stick with it and follow through. Dedications and Follow Through is the backbone of the his concept "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions" The most successful men and women usually knows what it takes to reach their goals. Coach Branstetter has always strive every year to reach his season goals for his team and his athletes. I suggest for those other coaches complaining about the Poway Program, "focus more on their own program, stop whining, focus more on winning, or perhaps learning and modeling from what Coach Branstetter instills in his program. Like the saying from "Field of Dreams." BUILD IT and THEY WILL COME... whether it's from HOMEGROWN or people moving and transferring to be part of something GREAT!


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