Sam Lopez

In this file photo, Selma wrestling coach Sam Lopez gives Jace Luchau advice during the CIF Division Championships on Feb. 17-18, 2017. Lopez was one of 13 recipients to earn the 2018-19 CIF Model Coach Award.  

Selma High wrestling coach Sam Lopez is one of 13 recipients to receive the 2018-19 Eastbay Model Coach Award, according to a press release from the CIF State office.

According to the CIF State office, the award recognizes coaches that serve as positive role models in their schools and communities.

Lopez was the only coach from the Central Section to receive the award. He said it’s an “honor” to earn the recognition and represent the Central Section.

“It’s a good thing to be recognized especially when it comes to character in sports,” Lopez said. “When you coach, you don’t think about trying to get awards and things like that.”

“It’s very important to us as a program for our athletes to win as a champion and lose as a champion. When I talk to our wrestlers and athletes I say ‘It’s great to be known as a great wrestler, but I think it’s more of a honor to known as a good person.’”

Lopez has coached for 30 years, with the last 10 at Selma High. He has coached the Bears boys wrestling team to multiple top two and four finishes at the CIF State tournament throughout his tenure at Selma.

“Sam attracts kids to a very difficult sport,” Selma athletic director Randy Esraelian said in an emailed statement. “He can strategize with the best, and teach technique at the highest level. What makes Sam such a great coach is his ability to relate to kids at all levels. Selma High is truly blessed to have Sam Lopez on campus, a person who understands how to master his craft and teach it to student-athletes. Sam is a coach of integrity and will always put the student-athlete first, winning second.”

As a coach, Lopez said sportsmanship to teach important to teach to his wrestlers.

“It’s good to teach our wrestlers, boys and girls, the way you hold yourself and the way you lose and the way you win,” Lopez said. “It’s a good feeling to watch our athletes in a tough battle and not throw a fit and not throw their headgear and not throw a tantrum.”

For Lopez, sportsmanship includes respecting your opponent and officials in any type of competitive matter.

“Overall, I respect the refs, I respect my colleagues, my opponents when we’re coaching the athletes,” Lopez said. “It’s a tough sport and I have a lot of respect for people that do it. It’s very competitive.”

Before coaching at Selma, Lopez coached in Southern California at Buena Park and Valencia high schools as an assistant coach. He became a head coach for the first time when he got hired at Selma High in 2009.

Throughout his 30-year coaching career, Lopez has never won a state title, which is something he hopes to cross off the list in the near future with the Bears.

Lopez said the team could potentially have seven or eight state placers next season, which could help Selma’s chances of a state title.

“We should be good next year also,” he said. “We’ll have a little more depth. We do have some upper weights that could possibly start filling in.”

“We had a kid that was a sophomore last year that wrestled heavyweight for us, we’re looking for him to do some things. Rudy Garcia should place next year, I think he went 3-2 at the state meet. Tyler Sepulveda went 3-2 at the state meet. The big difference is getting those guys on the podium.”

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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