Niko Proft, left and Pepper Marks are both undefeated for the Santa Barbara High wrestling team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Coaching defending CIF-SS wrestling champion Pepper Marks has been a joy for first-year Santa Barbara High coach Marc Fidel.

“She’s fierce,” said Fidel at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Press Luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe.

Like many athletes, Marks listens to music with headphones as she warms up before a competition. The curious Fidel wondered what could this special athlete be listening to before going onto the mat and pinning an opponent in less than a minute.

“She goes out there and just thumps, and I’m thinking I need that music in the (wrestling) room. What is it? Let’s play it on the loudspeaker.”

So, when Fidel approached Marks about her fire-up music at last week’s wrestling tournament at Hueneme High, he was stunned by her response.

“Well coach,” she started, “This weekend on repeat I had “Let it Go,” from (the movie) “Frozen,” Fidel shared with the luncheon audience.

“She plays ‘Let it Go’ a minute before she steps on the mat and just thumps,” the coach responded, shaking his head and smiling. “That’s who Pepper is. 

“Her energy is unbelievable. She is one of the most unique human beings I’ve ever met. I’m crazy about her energy and I’m just honored to be able to go along for the ride this year with her, because it’s going to be so cool.”

He said being with Marks at a wrestling tournament is like being with a celebrity.

“People come up to her and they just want to be around her. She’s sort of magnetic,” he said. “And, when she enters the tournament, her name Pepper Marks, inadvertently or invariably, she loses the Marks and she goes through the tournament as Pepper, they announce on the loudspeaker. She’s like Pele or Madonna.”

After winning four matches to take the title at the Hueneme Tournament, Marks improved to 12-0 on the season. She is ranked fourth in the state.

Fidel also introduced senior team captain Niko Proft. 

“He’s an all-around great individual,” said Fidel, who noted that Proft does whatever he can to help the younger wrestlers on the team.

“I don’t ask him to do it, he’s just that kind of person. He’s always there for the team. Academically, he’s a superior student. And, he hasn’t lost a match yet this year.”

The Dons wrestle at Dos Pueblos on Wednesday night.

Jake Carroll is 15-1 on the season for the San Marcos wrestling team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo).

San Marcos Wrestling

Eric Flores, a new coach at San Marcos, recognized right away that senior Jake Carroll is incredibly passionate about his sport.

“He’s a real inspiration to me and to the others on the team,” said Flores, who is a co-coach with Kit Cooper. “His passion for the sport is super transparent.

“He’s a stellar leader on the mat.”

Carroll is 15-1 on the season.


Carpinteria Girls

Assistant coach Lucy Carleton said four-year players Iltze Alvarado and Ariana Lounsbury get it done on the field and in the classroom.

Carpinteria soccer players Ariana Lounsbury, left, and Iltze Alvarado are strong on the field and in the classroom. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Alvarado was the captain of the cross country team and is also an award-winning artist, noted Carleton.

Lounsbury was moved from goalkeeper to defender this season and is doing a good job.

“She’s like the best player on the field,” said Carleton.

Laguna Blanca Girls

Coach Jose Rodriguez said center back Natalie Bianchi brings toughness to the pitch.

Emma Schubert, left, and Natalie Bianchi are strong players for the Laguna Blanca girls soccer team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo).

“If she can take (the ball) all the way, she could. But I try to keep her in the back,” he said. 

Emma Schubert, an attacking center midfielder, does a good job at winning the ball and getting forward, said Rodriguez.

The Owls are 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Frontier League.

“We’re looking forward to a good league run,” said Rodriguez.

San Marcos Girls

Assistant coach Miguel Vences said the Royals “are playing great soccer but haven’t been able to find our scoring boots yet.”

Twin sisters Malia and Lelani Venegas have stepped up on defense and “form the strong backbone of the team.”

They were joined by Julia Gularte, who’s recovering from an ACL injury and is looking forward to returning to the pitch this season.

Dos Pueblos Girls

Dos Pueblos coach Marco Medina told his players after a season-opening 2-1 loss that the “yuckiness that you feel in your gut, let’s not feel that again.”

Madelyn Jones, left, and Anastasia Brunner are key players for the Dos Pueblos girls soccer team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo).

The Chargers have gone unbeaten in their last three matches (2-0-1).

“I think that had an impact,” he said of feelings after the loss.

Freshman Anastasia Brunner and junior Madelyn Jones have been impact players for the Chargers.

Medina said Brunner is “very grateful to be on the varsity, but she deserves to be on the varsity. She’s athletic and super talented.”

The coach has her playing at center midfield.

Jones plays forward, and Medina said she has a high soccer IQ.

“She makes me a better coach,” he said.

Dos Pueblos Boys

The start of the season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Chargers.

“Our first three games got moved, dropped or canceled,” said coach Matt York. “It was hard to get a rhythm going.”

Ethan Foong, left, spearheads the defense, and Drew Hammers is a force up front for the Dos Pueblos boys soccer team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

After two loss, the Chargers beat Rio Mesa 3-0. Senior Drew Hammers got moved up to forward in the game and had a huge impact in the win.

“He was just an animal up front against Rio Mesa,” said York. “He was able to win a lot of balls and keep possession deep in their zone. And, he got off a pretty incredible shot to finish our scoring.”

Center back Ethan Foong was a force at the defensive end. 

“Physically, he plays hard,” said York. “He always does things fair and clean in his challenges. He’s always been just a stud in the air and marks some of the (opponents’) best players.”

The Chargers play at rival San Marcos on Tuesday at 4:45 p.m.

San Marcos Boys

First-year varsity player Leo Hernandez has been “a key piece” in the middle for the San Marcos soccer team, said assistant coach Genaro Hurtado. “He’s dictating the tempo and keeping the ball for us.”

Leo Olivo, left, has been an offensive force, while Leo Hernandez runs the attack for the San Marcos boys soccer team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Four-year player Leo Olivo has made a huge impact after missing half of last season with an injury.

“Thank God he’s back and he’s off to a great start,” said Hurtado, who raved about Olivo’s second goal in his hat trick against Ventura. “It was probably one of the best goals I’ve seen. He brought the ball down from his chest and just ripped it into the far corner.”


SBCC men’s assistant coach Trey Putnam has been impressed with the play of San Marcos alum Aidan Mandell, who was named Athlete of the Week.

“He gives us a chance to win every night, so I’m really proud to be able to work with him.”

The Vaqueros (4-9) have won three of their last four games.

SBCC’s women’s team is 5-5 after beating Ohlone, 70-41. Isabelle Jensen Williams had a career-high 28 points and was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.

The Vaqueros are home Wednesday against Bakersfield. All high school student athletes can attend the game for free by picking up a recruit pass at the entrance to the Sports Pavilion.

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Barry Punzal, Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.