January 14, 2005

Hilltop’s Santillan Striving to Place in State Competition

By John Philip Wyllie

As a two-time Master’s and two-time CIF wrestling champion, Hilltop’s 119 pound Sergio Santillan doesn’t have many problems when it comes to the sport he has grown to love. Considered the best wrestler in the county in his weight class, Santillan hopes to reach the rarified air of being a finalist later this season once the state tournament begins.

“Sergio’s athleticism is way beyond that of anyone that I have seen in a very long time,” said his coach, Tim Tyler. “One of our biggest problems is finding a wrestling partner that can compete with him. I simply don’t have anyone with his talent wrestling at that weight.”

During the holiday break, Tyler invited some alumni collegiate wrestlers to come back to give Santillan stronger competition. The hope is their competition will help him improve enough to place at the state tournament. It won’t be easy, but then neither was battling his way up the ladder on the state’s rankings. Santillan currently owns California’s number six slot.

“Sergio has tremendous skills and he is one heck of a hard worker, but placing in the state tournament is very difficult, so he will have his work cut out for him,” Tyler said. With a record of 13-2 heading into the holiday break, Santillan is off to another strong start.

“This year, I would like to take first place in CIF competition, take first place in the Master’s tournament and place at the state tournament,” Santillan said. Now a senior, he finds himself in the sometimes uncomfortable role of being the team’s leader.

“I really don’t like the leadership role and I don’t like the spotlight, but somebody has to do it. Coach Tyler has put that on my shoulders, so I just have to run with it,” Santillan said. As a two-time returning CIF and Master’s champion, Santillan doesn’t have to say much, he gains instant respect, based on all that he has accomplished. It is a bit of a cliché, but Santillan truly leads by example. And he is always there to root on and encourage his teammates.

“We lost two state qualifiers from last year’s team, so we only have two left this year, but I think we still have a pretty good team. We should have a shot at winning our league championship,” Santillan surmised.

He plans to continue wrestling in college after he graduates in June.

“I’m hoping to raise my G.P.A (currently 3.2) so that I can have a better shot at going to college on a scholarship. Lately, I’ve been doing better (academically) so hopefully, that will open some doors for me.”

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