Alan Clinton knew what to expect when he took the job as Servite’s athletic director in 2006. He just didn’t know what to expect as the school’s first wrestling coach.
But like he did at his previous school, El Modena High in Orange, Clinton dove right into both responsibilities and, eight years later, he’s back at the top of his game.
The athletic program at the all-boys’ school continues to hum along and the Servite wrestling team is tops in Orange County and considered one of the best in the state.
The Friars won the season-opening Cossarek Classic at Westminster High School earlier this month, posting a resounding 54-3 win over Laguna Hills, the second-ranked team in Orange County, in their first dual meet of the season, then went up north over the weekend of Dec. 12-13 and placed second at the prestigious Clovis West Shootout near Fresno.
Servite had a wrestler place in the top five in 12 of 14 weight classes, led by Noah Blakley’s second-place finish at 132 pounds.
Clinton, the Southern Section Athletic Director of the Year in 2008-09, said this season’s group isn’t just talented on the mat, but in the classroom, on campus and anywhere else they spend time.
“It’s an exceptionally good group of young men,” Clinton says. “They’re going to be the kind of kids that take care of us when we get old.”
Clinton began his teaching career at El Modena in 1981 and in four years began coaching the wrestling team. In his 21 years at El Modena, he coached 76 league champions and 13 state champions. Earlier this year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at El Modena, where his two youngest daughters still attend school.
When he left for Servite in 2006, the Friars did not have a wrestling program and Clinton had to start from scratch. Things moved slowly at first, as Servite didn’t win its first meet until December 2008.
Two years later, however, the Friars finished second at the Mann Classic, Sierra Nevada Classic and Peoria Invitational and third at the Five Counties Invitational, the highest-placing team from Orange County. Servite dominated the Trinity League finals that season, sending all 14 wrestlers to the section championships, where they finished second as a team.
The Friars placed their first two wrestlers at state as Gianpier Yanez placed seventh at 152 pounds and Wyatt Baker was sixth at heavyweight, and Clinton was recognized with the 2010-11 Model Coach Award at the tournament.
“I’ve been fortunate since I started way back at El Modena,” Clinton says.
This season’s squad features the strong depth that has come to signify the Friars in recent years. In addition to Blakley, nine others reached the semifinals at the Clovis West Shootout: Liam Cronin (106), Matt Rodriguez (113), Brent Reed (120), Troy Madrigal (138), J.J. Reed (145), Gordon Livermore (170), Matt Vasquez (182), Kyle Paterson (220) and V.J. Leuta (285).
“Overall, they’re just good, tough, hardworking kids,” Clinton says.
The Friars will get another firm test the week after Christmas as they head to Reno for the Sierra Nevada Classic, which attracts many of the top programs from throughout the West. Servite was the top finisher from Southern California last season, placing fifth.