For Andrew Cathey, Redondo Union's third head wrestling coach in as many years, there are three pillars to his philosophy:
Discipline, hard work, and fundamental technique.
“Wrestling, like all sports, can be broken down very simply," said Cathey. "If you outwork your opponent, focus every day in practice, and can master the basics, you can go far.”
A lot of young athletes, said Cathey, expect instant gratification or believe their success has a ceiling.
"Our coaching staff believes that all of our wrestlers have the potential to be amazing and so far, the kids who show up every day, focus in practice, and communicate effectively are the ones who have had the most success.”
Cathey, who grew up in the Bay Area, played football and wrestled in high school. He left with the school record for most pins in a season and career and earned a college scholarship (which he turned down), but stepped away from the sport for nearly a decade.
He returned to the sport as a coach after moving to Southern California and took over a Redondo Union program with plenty of promising wrestlers.
This week it is all about helping his boys’ and girls’ teams prep for league finals with CIF berths on the line and possibly state. The team did not qualify for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs so all that is left is the individual competitions.
The girls will be up first competing at Peninsula on Saturday against league competition. Wrestlers will take on other individuals from Mira Costa, Peninsula, Torrance, West Torrance, North Torrance, South Torrance and Lawndale.
The Bay League finals for the boys will be hosted by Beverly Hills on Friday, Feb. 7 with Santa Monica, Mira Costa, Peninsula, Beverly Hills and Redondo Union battling it out.
“Both our boys and girls look to be 100 percent healthy and ready to challenge to qualify all 14 boys and all 13 girls for CIF,” Cathey said. “Some wrestlers who could have a chance to qualify for Masters and potentially State Finals include Teyah Gutierrez, Jenna Vick, Ava Thomas, Brooklyn Long, Kylie Sharp, Alicia Arias, Olivia Bulgarini, Connor Kirkpatrick, Jake Heaslet, Connor Kaplan, Noah Laolagi, Wyatt Marsh, Eli Geffen, Ethan Verharst, and Dylan Parkinson.”
Girls team deal with injuries
For the girls, Bulgarini, Sharp and Gutierrez are returning qualifiers from Masters last year and will look to advance further, but the latter two have been battling injuries this year. Gutierrez has missed all season and Sharp has been injured most of the season-both are just sophomores.
Bulgarini, senior, will have her last shot. She is a captain and has had a successful season with a second at the Santa Paula Duals and third place finishes at Esparanza and Bonita.
Brooklyn Long, who is just a freshman, won her weight class at Santa Paula and was third in South Hills and fourth at Esparanza. She has been the most consistent wrestler for the girls’ team this year placing at all the tournaments.
Vick is the other captain on the team.
There were 20 girls on the team this year and Redondo Union was one of a few teams in the area that could field an entire lineup, according to Cathey.
“Our girls team is really good,” Cathey said. “We have had to battle through a number of injuries and illnesses this season that have kept us from being 100 percent all year. But now we are finally healthy and excited to see what their full potential will be.”
Boys team learning lessons
The boys’ team went 1-3 in the Bay League beating Peninsula, but losing to Mira Costa, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, which won league.
The Sea Hawks were edged by rival Mira Costa 36-29 at Redondo Union last week.
“It hurts not to beat your rivals, but it is a great lesson for our kids,” Cathey said. “We only lost by seven points. In wrestling, a seven-point difference is a matter of a few little things going the other way.”
Mira Costa head coach Jimmy Chaney is a believer.
“I am super impressed by coach Cathey and his coaching staff. If that team of coaches can stay together, they will soon be the powerhouse of the area.”
Redondo Union was able to win some close matches.
“It’s been a really fun and great season, a positive change of pace,” said Redondo Union’s Noah Laolagi, who is a junior and a co-captain. “The team has grown in the past three years and I’m proud and glad to be a part of this process. We still have much to learn, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”
Laolagi competes in the 145 lbs. weight class.
“My highlight for this year is definitely placing first at the Scott Davis Tournament, but overall being able to place at all of the tournaments we have been to. Sticking to what I’ve learned and practiced this year, I will move forward to CIF.”
Connor Kaplan, sophomore, is one of Redondo Union’s top wrestlers. He wrestles at 132 lbs.
“This season has been tough but exciting for our varsity team,” Kaplan said. “With a change in coaching staff and a new lineup, we are young and ready to wrestle. We started season off slowly, but recently more of our team has started placing at tournaments and winning matches. With the end of season approaching we are all optimistic to see how far each of us can go.”
Wyatt Marsh, senior, is Redondo Union’s most successful returner from last year. He qualified for CIF and is a co-captain this year.
Jake Heaslet, sophomore, and Eli Geffen, junior, are Redondo Union’s other CIF contenders. Along with Marsh, Laolagi and Kaplan, both placed at all the tournaments they wrestled in.
As a team, their best finish was second place at the Bishop Amat Brute Rumble in December.
“At the start of the season, we lost four varsity starters from the girls’ team and half of the boys’ varsity team, including a state qualifier, a Masters qualifier, and five CIF qualifiers and potential Masters qualifiers this season. Out of our 60 kids in the program, 45 of them are freshman and sophomores.”
“Even though we lost a lot of talented wrestlers, all of the kids who we have on the team are the kids I trust to go to battle with. We have a great young core of underclassmen who have been exceeding my expectations all season.”
Marsh and Laolagi were Redondo Union’s only champions during the regular season. Marsh won his weight class at the Beckman Turkey Duals and Laolagi was first at the Scott Davis Invitational.