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West hopes hard work leads to gold

Oak Ridge High sophomore seeks gold medal at state tourney
By: Matt Long
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It's fairly safe to say that few people work harder than Kyle West. The 16-year-old sophomore at Oak Ridge High is one of the best wrestlers in the state. Yes, he's talented, but he's also paid his dues by putting a lot of hard work and time into becoming the best wrestler he can be. That dedication has provided him a chance to achieve his goal this weekend in Bakersfield, when West will attempt to win the state wrestling championship in the 130-pound weight class. He enters the tournament ranked fourth in the state. "I've done a lot of hard work and I feel that I'm peaking at the right time," West said. "I'm going to work harder this week than I've ever worked before." That will be tough to do. West, who's wrestled since he was in fourth grade, devotes at least 20 hours a week to the sport, including 15 hours of practice with the team, three hours of running and another two hours on Sundays watching, critiquing and reenacting his matches with former Stanford standout wrestler Beau Weiner. West has another motivating factor for doing his best this weekend. He's coming off a disappointing (to him) second-place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Masters Tournament last weekend in Stockton. West lost to Daniel Osmer of Buhach Colony in the finals, 3-2. The match was tied 2-2 in the final seconds, when the referee awarded Osmer a point as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third period. The referee ruled West locked his hands, which is illegal. "I was frustrated throughout the match because I wasn't doing anything," West said. "I froze up and didn't wrestle close to my potential. If I meet him again I'll tear him up." Making the loss even more disappointing was that it came after four of West's best matches. He dominated the competition on his way to the finals, earning one pin and three technical falls. No one scored a point on him, unless West cut them loose. "It was one of my best tournaments I ever wrestled until the finals," West said. West enters the state tournament with a 45-4 record. Two of his losses came against opponents who have dropped down to the 125-pound weight class. The others, Osmer and third-ranked Porfirio Madrigal of Healdsburg, will be among West's toughest competitors. Bobby Scofield of Dana Hills is ranked No. 1 in the state, followed by Joey Boone of Poway and then Madrigal and West. Regardless of how West does this weekend, he's a lot happier now than he was a year ago. In January of 2006 West tore his medial collateral ligament and partially tore his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus in his right knee, forcing him to miss the rest of the high school season. He chose not to have surgery and was eventually cleared to wrestle the same week as the freshman-sophomore state tournament where he placed third. "I had just gotten off crutches earlier in the week so I was out of shape," West said. "Now my knee is 100 percent." The injury kept West from achieving one of his goals, which was to qualify for the state meet all four years of high school. Well, he's back this year and is aiming even higher. He credits his coach, Rocco Cardinale, for helping him improve. "He's the biggest influence on me," West said. "He challenges me both mentally and physically. He forms the style that I wrestle and he pushes me hard in the room." For his part, Cardinale gives a lot of credit to West. When asked what West's strengths are Cardinale said 'many.' "He's very good technically and he's very strong," Cardinale said. "He's just a well-rounded wrestlers. His knowledge of the sport is very high and I think that's what separates him from everyone else." West also appreciates the time Weiner takes to help him out reviewing his matches. "Somebody of his caliber (Weiner is a former 6th-place finisher at NCAA nationals) sees little things that make a big difference," West said. "We watch the tapes and then we'll stop them and recreate the situation right there and he'll show me things that I could have done. It helps a lot." West has learned a lot about himself and a lot about life through the sport of wrestling. Perhaps the biggest thing he's learned is about hard work. "The biggest difference from good and great is hard work," West said. "Everyone can say they want to win a big fat medal, but they've got to do the work. Hard work gets things done." This week West will work harder than ever, hoping to achieve his ultimate goal. "I've wanted to win the state title since the beginning of the season," West said. "I can beat anyone out there. I've just got to go out and do it." Cardinale added, "I'm confident in his abilities. The sky is the limit."