First published in the Dec. 22 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
It is now head coach Justin Luthey’s 10th season at the helm of the wrestling program at La Cañada High School and its success continues to grow each year.
The Spartans carry 107 combined wrestlers between the boys’ and the girls’ teams across all levels — the largest amount of wrestlers Luthey’s had during his tenure.
“This year, it exploded. For the last couple of years we’ve always had a very big program, so numbers got as high as 70 or 80, which is very abnormal for a wrestling team,” Luthey said. “This is the biggest team we’ve ever had. There are certainly challenges in that for me as a head coach but it has been super, super rewarding and I’m really excited there are so many kids interested in wrestling.”
La Cañada is ranked No. 4 in CIF-Southern Section Division IV and has enjoyed success over the last several years. The boys’ junior varsity team has won the Rio Hondo League each season since at least 2013 while the varsity boys’ team has won league the last four seasons.
“I don’t want to brag too much but our success in the San Gabriel Valley has been very high. We make it to the playoffs every year and the quarterfinals a couple years,” Luthey said. “Last year we lost in the first round but I would definitely say that humbly we are one of the better programs in the area.”
Luthey’s goal is to continue the growth of the girls’ program. He wants it to become a more competitive team but, most importantly, to make sure the players enjoy the experience of high school wrestling.
“This is a bonafide team and we want to make our team competitive against other teams, not just spotlights here and there,” Luthey said. “I want to make sure their athletic experience is on par with the boys and that they find success in wrestling — that they get both enjoyment and also pride.”
As for the boys’ team, it is business as usual. Luthey’s goal is to replicate last year and qualify at least one wrestler in all 14 weight classes. One of Luthey’s lofty goals is to qualify 10 wrestlers for the Masters Meet this season.
The COVID-19 pandemic season greatly impacted high school sports programs. From canceled seasons to new guidelines disrupting games and practices, each program had to adapt and adjust accordingly but not all returned as strong as the La Cañada wrestling teams.
“The COVID year was our best year. When other programs weren’t working, we were. Our administration at La Cañada was very supportive,” Luthey said. “We followed all the rules and it was difficult at times, but we made sure we brought in the kids and we were doing whatever we could do. I think we really got a competitive advantage during that time because so many programs were not able or were not willing to practice or do anything.”
Luthey and the Spartans will continue to work hard through January before competing in the league finals on Feb. 1.