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Champions are Made, Not Born:  Mira Mesa Wrestling Develops Talent; Wins Championships

Article By: Adam Logue

The 2018-2019 season was one for the record books.  Logging a perfect 17-0 dual record, Mira Mesa also finished the season as Division 2 CIF Runners Up and was the 4th overall best team in San Diego and Imperial Counties (San Diego Section Masters).  It was the team’s highest finish ever at the S.D.S. Masters.

Continuing their dominance, Mira Mesa won their 9th consecutive San Diego City Conference Championship and 9th Consecutive League Championship, increasing their city win streak to 45 straight.  Moreover, the impact of the team is far reaching, with over 70 members participating this season. “Our wrestling family continues to grow in terms of numbers and personal achievement” said Head Coach Craig VanDyke.  “With big numbers come big challenges, but with a great coaching staff and committed wrestlers, we once again rose to the challenge and put together another historic season for our Mira Mesa family.”

With 3 state qualifiers, Mira Mesa tied a team record from last year.  State Qualifiers were Andy Nguyen, a Senior at 126 pounds, Devhante Hayes, a Sophomore at 152 pounds, and Kurtis Modlin, a Junior at 195 pounds.  Mathew Bui (12) finished 6th at the Masters (Section) Tournament. Coach VanDyke stated, “Once again we had our most successful season ever, and that’s no easy task. I’m very pleased with the team’s attitude and excitement for taking down team records.”  The continued development of wrestlers and leaders is a primary concern of the coaching staff at Mira Mesa. VanDyke added, “We talk about how to live our life almost as much as we talk about wrestling. I want champions in life more than I want champions on the mat.” 

It’s the beginning of big things for Mira Mesa, as they return Modlin and Hayes, as well as 7 starters to the varsity lineup. “We are very pleased to have our first ever Sophomore state qualifier,” Coach VanDyke continued, “and we are thrilled to have two returning state qualifiers to lead the team next season.  We believe the underclassmen will be even hungrier to achieve more earlier in their careers.”  

A CIF Runner Up and 3rd Overall finish in the Section doesn’t come without a team effort.  All 14 Wrestlers were Division 1 CIF Placers. Of those, 7 wrestlers finished in the top 8 at Masters:  Andy Nguyen, Mathew Bui, Gavin Kaminski (11), Devhante Hayes,John Cantan (12), Malachi Dowdell (11), Dylan Lagandoan (11), and Kurtis Modlin.

Additionally, 3 wrestlers finished in the top 12: Luca Pasto (12), Calel Velasco (12), and Aiden Haimovitch-Gore (10). Michael Trinidad (11), Ryan Knox (12), and Ethan Nelson (12) were also CIF Placers and Masters Qualifiers.  3 of those wrestlers were Division 1 CIF Champions: Kurtis Modlin, Aiden Haimovitch-Gore, and Ethan Nelson.

The Marauders won their 9th Consecutive Willie Jones Memorial City Conference Championship by the second largest margin in conference history (103 points) with 7 individual champions leading the way:  Luca Pasto, Calel Velasco, Zach Antonio (11), Andy Nguyen, Ryan Knox, John Cantan, and Kurtis Modlin. Of 14 wrestlers 12 made the finals. Other finalists were: Mathew Bui, Gavin Kaminski, Devhante Hayes, Dylan Lagandoan, and Aiden Haimovitch Gore.  Mira Mesa also won their 9th Consecutive League title and was also bolstered by 9 First-Team All League Champions: Calel Velasco (3rd league title), Andy Nguyen (3rd league title), Matthew Bui, Gavin Kaminski (2nd league title), Jonn Cantan, Devhante Hayes (2nd league title), Kurtis Modlin, Aiden Haimovitch-Gore, and Ethan Nelson.

The JV and Freshman Marauders also put together the most successful season in MMHS history, by once again taking second place at the San Diego County Championships. The team finished behind only Poway. Not to be outdone, the Freshman squad had their best finish ever at the County Freshman Championships, finishing runner-up to Poway, with Ethan Phonesavath claiming the championship at 126 pounds. Junior Varsity/Freshman standouts include Payton Oliver, Basem Jaha, Ethan Phonesavath, Ryan Reed, John Conlan, Eric Lam and Sammy Aceron.  

The lady Marauders had the largest girls squad to come through Mira Mesa. Six females were a part of the girls division. Tavania Tran (12), Kahmela Solano (11), Kyla Patillo (10) and Hannah Catungal (9) all participated in the CIF divisional tournament. The top finisher was Senior Tran, who was a CIF runner-up. Pattillo finished 6th for the second year in a row. 

It’s easy to be excited about a program that’s growing in accolades and athletes each year, and it’s important to recognize the outstanding individual and team achievements of the Mira Mesa Wrestling Program.  But, we also need to talk about developing young men. This is the primary concern of Mira Mesa Wrestling. 

Each year in this article, I write about GRACE:  Gratitude, Respect, Awareness, Communication, and Embracing difficult situations.  These are the core tenets of Mira Mesa Wrestling. One evening each week, the Mira Mesa coaches and wrestlers sit after practice and discuss how each of these core ideas impact their lives, families, teammates, and communities. Sometimes there is laughter; sometimes there are tears. Always, the participants leave better understanding what it means to be a servant leader–not an individual on a team, but a member of a body moving together towards a common objective.  

Mira Mesa Wrestling continued what has now become an expectation of excellence, and Mira Mesa Wrestling is already hard at work getting ready for next season: they don’t rest on their laurels.  If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the program, contact Head Coach Craig VanDyke at 


Additional Marauder notes:

The Junior class will continue the tradition of volunteering for the Special Olympics event held at Mira Mesa High School on March 27th. Follow the Special Olympics of San Diego County on Facebook:

Follow Mira Mesa Wrestling on Facebook:

Fall Guys Youth Wrestling Program for ages 5 through Middle School:


Team Photos by: Janet Bark

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