It was “Throwback Tuesday” last week when the Temecula Valley Golden Bears wrestling team took on the visiting Chaparral Pumas during their last regular season Southwestern League match-up of the year. Tuesday, January 30, also signified something even greater for the Golden Bears. The occasion was one that would continue to keep Temecula Valley in the record books, as long as they won, like they have done every year for the past 29 years. Temecula Valley High School was on the brink of winning a 30th straight league title, which has been a state record of theirs since the Golden Bears took control of it in 2015.
To signify the day even more, the wrestling program wanted to hold their match in the school’s original gym, which is now used primarily as a practice facility for a myriad of sports. That original gym hosted many a wrestling match in its day for the program that was started back in the eighties by Matt Craven, who really just wanted to keep things simple in the early years.
“We had about 1000 students enrolled in the school at the time and of that amount we had about 100 kids come out to wrestle that first year,” said Craven, who was in attendance on this historic of nights. “I’m proud of what has transpired since those days between the coaches and the wrestlers, they have really helped put our school on the map.” led the program for seven years over two coaching stints.
Nowadays the Golden Bears have co-Head coaches Arnold Alpert and Lyndon Campbell, who have helped build a Southern California wrestling powerhouse since becoming involved in the program. Though this string of excellence didn’t start with Alpert and Campbell, when Alpert showed up in 1995, the Golden Bears had already won six straight league titles, but to put what they have done in perspective, some of the team’s current wrestlers’ parents were in high school when this whole winning streak began.
Temecula Valley brought a 29-year streak of league dual championships – the past 20 of them in the Southwestern League – into last Tuesday night’s final Southwestern home dual against Chaparral and beat the Pumas 61-12, which put the finishing touches on the program’s 30th consecutive league championship. Ethan Gessel (113), Cameron Owen (126), Michael Scarpone (152), Damian Wake (195), Logan Melendez (220) and Justin Woodall (285) also scored pinfall wins for the Golden Bears in the match.
“Thirty years is pretty much half of my lifetime and nearly twice the lifetime of most of our wrestlers here. I really just want to thank everyone that has been a part of our success over the years,” Golden Bears co-coach Arnold Alpert told the crowd after the match.
Alpert then invited anyone that has been associated with the program over the three decades of wins to join him out on the mat after he spoke and the bleachers emptied, which shows how much has gone into this win streak. Administrators, parents, boosters and wrestlers for the past and present joined the coaches and for a picture as well as Steve Weeks and Mike Fisher, who each led the program for one season.
Co-coach Lyndon Campbell spoke to several members of the media after the match stating, “Much of the success of the program is done by people behind the scenes, it’s the sacrifices made by so many that produce results on the mat. This program will flourish long after we are gone because of what has been established.”
In addition to their impressive league winning streak, the program has also won 33 CIF Southern Section titles, 70 individual section championships, produced 17 Masters Meet champions and five state champions. There is still a lot of wrestling left this season, including the Eastern Division duals, which took place Saturday, Feb 3, at Santiago High School. Those results will be posted online.