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Ready to hit the mat

Hoover High wrestling program will begin its inaugural season in November.

September 24, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

For those who have championed the idea for years, getting a wrestling team established at Hoover High has been a slippery proposition to pin down, until now.

Longtime Hoover teacher and assistant football coach Mark Bitetti has made prior attempts to plant the seeds of the sport in a school, as well as area at large, that's long been barren when it comes to grappling.

"I've been here for 15 years and I've always been amazed that there's no wrestling out this way," said Bitetti, who formerly coached the sport in the wrestling hotbed of Covina. "Wrestling's a huge deal in the Middle East. A lot of the kids that feed in here are from the Middle East. There's world champions right here in our community and it's a huge deal in all of those countries. For many years, I've had all kinds of kids saying, 'Hey, let's get a wrestling [team], let's do it.'"

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Behind the full support of the school and Glendale Unified School District administration, the vision will finally become a reality. Funding has been approved for the creation of a Tornadoes wrestling program, including, most importantly, a 38 square-foot wrestling mat for the gym, and more than two dozen prospective team members have already begun weight training for the start of the winter season in November.

"We've been toying around with it for several years, the idea of doing it keeps coming up," Hoover Athletic Director Jack Van Patten said. "[Hoover Principal] Dr. [Jennifer] Earl kind of got behind it and Mark Bitetti wanted to take the lead on it.

"[Dr. Earl] has fully supported it and she's done a lot of stuff to get it going. …Everything was in alignment — right place, right time, right people."

Some things are still up in the air, such as how many matches the Tornadoes will be able to schedule and just who they will compete against in their inaugural season. No other Pacific League member schools field wrestling teams, meaning Hoover will be a freelance team for at least the 2011 season.

"We're going to have to try to get into a league," Bitetti said. "We're going to see how things progress and then we possibly could try to go to some tournaments [as an] at-large type thing.

"This first year is kind of a feeling out process."

The most logical course of action would appear to be petitioning to join the Rio Hondo League, which includes nearby La Cañada High, as well as several other wrestling schools from the San Gabriel Valley

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