The California Wrestler Stands the Test of Time – 45 Years and Counting By Al Fontes

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Al Fontes – State Editor

The 2018 – ’19 season marks the 45th year of The California Wrestler Newsletter (TCW), the long standing original voice of wrestling in the Golden State and abroad. The origin of the TCW began in 1974 when founders Bill Grant and Larry Prosper formulated the concept of generating a newsletter to inform the wrestling community of the latest dual and tournament results as local newspaper outlets throughout Northern California were lacking the coverage in their respective areas. After much consultation with coaches in the greater Bay Area, Grant and Prosper launched the first newsletter, the Northern California Newsletter that focused primarily with sections in the North Coast, Central Coast, Sacramento/San-Joaquin counties, Northern area, Oakland and San Francisco City leagues. The Northern California Wrestler’s first welcome letter was distributed to coaches, wrestlers, families, and fans via regular mail during the fall of 1975. After a few seasons it was expanded throughout the entire state, thus becoming The California Wrestler Newsletter. Typically, five or six newsletters (created by the “old school” cut and paste method on paper and then photo copied at a local Kinko’s printing shop) were distributed each season. After the initial launch of the TCW, editors Stan Jamerson, Olympian/Coach Bill Smith, Larry Farrant, Vern Baxter, and California Hall-of-Fame recipient Lynn Dyche came onboard and contributed for several years.

A few decades later in the 1990s, editors Jim Lucas, Jeff Roberts, Michael Wright, and Al Fontes joined the staff, where Fontes and Wright became an integral part of the modernization of the TCW from an actual paper newsletter to a web-based format. The TCW first entered the World Wide Web “Internet” during the early part of the new millennium. During the early to mid 2000s TCW welcomed the addition of Rick Griffith (Webmaster), Michael Cho (State/Section rankings), Ray Brinzer (Webmaster), Aaron Fontes (Editor/Historian), and various contributors to its staff. More recently, the TCW re-established itself as the voice of wrestling news in the Golden State among other California web-based promotional sites that surfaced through the years. As it was in its humble beginnings, the current TCW staff is made up of former wrestlers, coaches, volunteers, and people that value good ethics, integrity, passion for the sport, and most importantly, respect to all that have participated in or have been an integral part of the greatest sport on Earth, amateur wrestling.

Fast forward to the 2018-’19 season, the TCW is where the avid wrestling fans view day-to-day stories, biographies, question & answer articles, all past high school and junior college state championship results, national results, state statistics, All-American teams, high school pre-season reviews, a 24/7 forum that has become a major hub in California to discuss current events, and so much more. In addition, TCW staff member Michael Cho compiles the most accurate and reliable rankings in the Golden State. These rankings have been tested, proven, and are the primary source for each of the established national ranking groups representing Wrestling USA Magazine, Amateur Wrestling News, FLO, WIN Magazine, and InterMat, respectively. Moreover, the TCW has expanded its voice to other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. With the exception of the use of advertisements, the TCW offers free access to its site for all to view. 

In the spirit of promoting our great sport, it is our goal to reach out to the masses in California and abroad and to continue to improve upon our already successful site that has on average received millions of hits per month, a stat that is among the top one percent for all wrestling sites in the country. A special “Thank You” goes out to outstanding California wrestling photographers John Sachs (Tech-Fall), Tony Rotundo (Wrestlers Are Warriors), Chris Mora (From Inside the Mat), Nicole Coccimiglio, and Jim Thrall (Mat Focus) for providing their outstanding photos for our site. Without a doubt, the total commitment and dedication to promote wrestling in the Golden State in the early days by its founders set the foundation to what we have today; a nationally recognized and respected wrestling site, which has expanded its viewership throughout the entire country and abroad. From the beginning of the regular season through the post season, the TCW, the original and time tested news source for California wrestling, is the place to go for the latest and most comprehensive source of wrestling in the Golden State. We, the TCW staff, appreciate your continued support and input in making our site a great success. Thank you!


BILL GRANT has been involved with the sport of wrestling for approximately 60 years. He began his mat career at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto and competed for San Francisco State, earning a Far Western Conference title, as well as two trips to the NCAA Division II Championships in 1967 and ’68 respectively. His coaching tenure began in 1971 at Pacifica High School in Pittsburg, CA and in 1976 he led Oakland High School in the city section to a 4th Place team finish at the CIF State Championships, producing 4 medalist in the process. To date, no other Oakland school has achieved this feat. After a short stint at Roseburg High School in Oregon, where his team was the 1977 Southern Oregon Conference Champions, he took the helm at Monterey High School in the Central Coast Section (CCS) in 1978 and for the next 27 years his teams earned a CCS title in 1982 and produced 38 section medalist and 4 CIF State placers. Currently, Bill coaches at Pacific Grove High School. More importantly, he has been among the top promoters of wrestling in the Golden State and abroad. In 1974, he founded the Northern California Wrestler Newsletter, which shortly thereafter became what we know today as The California Wrestler Newsletter. In addition, Bill has run the Monterey Coaches Clinic of Champions since the late 1970s, which for the past four decades has been rated among the top wrestling clinics in the country. Serving on numerous executive committees and Board of Director groups, Bill also earned several Coach-of-the-Year awards and was inducted to the California Wrestling Hall-of-Fame in 2004 and the National Wrestling Hall-of-Fame, California Chapter in 2015.

Bill’s responsibilities include managing TCW advertisements. In addition, he is contributing editor for Wrestling USA Magazine and CIF State program. Married with one son, Bill resides in Pacific Grove, Ca and is a retired teacher with 35 years of teaching service.

AL FONTES “aka, Coach Al” has over 38 years of service in the sport of wrestling. He has served as the California State Editor of the California Wrestler Newsletter since 1995 and has also been a contributing editor for several national wrestling publications and websites (Wrestling USA Magazine, Amateur Wrestling News, WIN Magazine, InterMat and His awards include Wrestling USA Magazine Editor-of-the-Year (2001), Wrestling USA Magazine Person-of-the-Year (2001), and at the 2001 CIF State Championships, he was awarded the Irv Oliner Award for extensive contributions to the promotion of wrestling in California. Al was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall-of-Fame (Lifetime Service Award) in May 2016 and in 2018, Al was the recipient of Amateur Wrestling News’ Bob Dellinger Award, bestowed since 1960 to the nation’s top wrestling writer. Currently, Al is a board member with the California Wrestling Hall-of-Fame committee.

Al has also coached wrestling for 25 years, which includes Livermore High School (NCS), Antioch High School (NCS), Liberty High School (Brentwood – NCS), Junction Middle School (Livermore), Christensen Middle School (Livermore), Tri-Valley Wrestling Club, Delta Wrestling Club and was the California Team Leader at the NHSCA Senior High School Nationals in 2001, 2002, and 2006 where California won the national team title in 2001 and runner-up in ’02 and ’06. In addition, he has also been responsible for compiling statistical lists of all the CIF State Champions, NCAA Champions/All-Americans (all collegiate divisions), High School All-Americans, Freestyle/Greco-Roman All-Americans, and Olympians, which are posted on the TCW website and several of the national wrestling publications. Al wrestled for Livermore High School, Chabot College, and graduated from the University of San Francisco with college honors.  Al resides in Livermore, California and is married with one child. He has been employed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over 28 years.

MICHAEL WRIGHT “aka, Coach Wright” is from the state of Iowa where he wrestled varsity all four years for his high school, Southeast Warren. His biggest accomplishment in high school was qualifying for the 1988 state high school championships at 112 pounds and wrestling on the team that placed 4th in the Iowa State Dual Team Championships. Coach Wright had coached at Hanford High for eight years leading the Bull pup’s to 1 West Yosemite League Championship, 4 straight top 20 CIF state finishes, 2 top 10 CIF state finishes with 1 State Champion, 10 state placers, 19 state qualifiers, 1 NHSCA Senior All-American, 4 NHSCA qualifiers, 4 USA Freestyle/Greco National place winners, and 7 USA National qualifiers.  In addition, Coach Wright spent two years at Redwood High School in Visalia where he had 3 state qualifiers, 2 USA Freestyle/Greco place winners, and 6 USA National qualifiers.  Moreover, Coach Wright is also a California National Freestyle and Greco Coach.  The 2018-’19 season will mark Coach Wright’s 13th season as the Emperors Head Coach at Dinuba High School.  While in Dinuba, Coach Wright has led the Emperors to their first league and Valley championship in school history in 2014 as well the school’s first 2 state placers in 2015 and having numerous state qualifiers.

Since the late 1990s, Michael Wright has been an integral part of the TCW staff. His responsibility includes managing the forum, advertisements, and during the early 2000s was responsible for development of the TCW from an actual paper newsletter to a site on the Internet. Awards include being chosen Tulare County Coach of the Year three times (2014 – ’16) and Tulare County Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2006. Coach Wright earned a BA degree in Political Science from Fresno State University.

MICHAEL CHO has been covering the sport of wrestling in California for approximately 12 Years. A graduate of Los Gatos High School in the Central Coast Section, as well as a graduate of the Ivy League’s Columbia University, Cho has been an integral part of the California Wrestler (TCW) staff, primarily compiling the California state rankings, which are considered by many in the wrestling circles to be among the most comprehensive in the nation. In addition, Cho is responsible for compiling sectional rankings for the Central Coast Section and for the last several years has been the lead writer of the CIF State Championship’s preview.  More recently, he joined the CIF State Championship’s bracket planning committee.  In 2017, Michael was awarded the State Person-of-the-Year Award by Wrestling USA Magazine.

AARON FONTES has been involved with the sport of wrestling since the early 1980s. In 1981 his mat career began at Junction Middle School in Livermore, California and then continued at Livermore High School in the North Coast Section. While at Livermore High, he lettered all four years in wrestling and was a team captain his senior season. In addition, he wrestled his way into the North Coast Section finals and qualified to the prestigious CIF State Championships in 1986. After high school, Aaron continued his mat career at Chabot College in Hayward, California, where he was a two-year letterman and team captain in 1988. He finished his mat career by placing at the California Community College State Championships.

Aaron’s coaching tenure began at Junction Middle School in 1986 and continued thru the mid 1990s at his alma mater, Livermore High School, as well as the Tri-Valley Wrestling Club. Currently, he is coaching at the Iron House Wrestling Club in Oakley, CA.

Aaron’s promotion of wrestling goes back many years and more recently, he has been involved with several historical projects, such as compiling the final results for the North Coast Section (NCS) Championships dating back to the 1950s. In addition, Aaron has been working on a series of promotional projects for other high schools in the NCS. Moreover, he has been involved “behind the scenes” for many years researching and compiling wrestling statistics in support of his older brother Coach Al, the California State Editor. A graduate of Chabot College, Aaron resides in Oakley, California and is married with five children. He has been employed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over 20 years.

The first newsletter sent to coaches and wrestling fans via regular mail – 1975