10 head to CIF Championships

Tyler Graham

A total of 10 wrestlers will head to the CIF Championships tournament after placing at the Mission League Finals Feb 1. Team captains Jake Bracken ’14 and Patrick Halkett ’14 both won the title in their respective weight classes at League Finals to lead the squad.

Bracken and Halkett placed first in the 132 lbs. and 113 lbs. weight classes respectively, while fellow seniors Alex Lange ’14 and Connor Kalantari ’14 finished third at 145 lbs. and 195 lbs., respectively.

One junior, two sophomores and three freshmen also placed, thus qualifying for the CIF championships.

Bracken, who was named Harvard-Westlake Student Athlete Advisory Council’s Athlete of the Month in December, finished with a 31-5 individual record on the season.

Along with placing first at League Finals, Bracken’s season included winning the Newbury Park Tournament  Dec. 7.

Bracken is pleased about his win at League Finals, but is not taking any time to celebrate, instead turning his focus to advancing deeper into the postseason, he said.

“I have been preparing for the postseason for a long time and it felt good to get it off to a good start,” Bracken said. “As a team I think we feel pretty good. Qualifying 10 out of 10 wrestlers for CIF is a huge accomplishment and it gave us a lot of confidence. We have two more weeks to keep improving, and I think [Head Coach] Gary [Bairos] has done a great job all season preparing us for this.”

As a leader and captain of the team, Bracken takes great responsibility and pride in not only his own performance, but also that of his teammates.

“I try to make sure I’m relaxed before competition because generally when I do well, we do well as a team,” Bracken said. “During practice we try to stay focused on what each person in the room needs to improve on. We also have guys that are an important part of the team who did not qualify for CIF, but keep showing up every day just to support the rest of the team, which I think will help everybody achieve their personal goals.”

Halkett started his wrestling career in seventh grade on the middle school team and will culminate his journey as a League champion.

“It’s really interesting that I came into this sport not really knowing anything, and I sort of moved my way up every year and got better,” Halkett said. “In wrestling what you put in is what you get out, and it’s nice knowing that all the time that I put in had actual benefits.”

Halkett shares Bracken’s optimism about the team’s prospects heading into CIF.

“I feel pretty hopeful for everyone going into CIF,” Halkett said. “I think wrestlers like Bracken, myself, and Jake Adler ’17 have a really good chance of placing in CIF and continuing on to CIF Masters. It’s really exciting to be bringing 10 kids who all have a good chance to compete in their weight class.”