ARCHIVE PHOTO: The members of the Hoover High boys' wrestling team say they're ready for new challenges in the second year of the program's existence.

ARCHIVE PHOTO: The members of the Hoover High boys' wrestling team say they're ready for new challenges in the second year of the program's existence. (Photo by Mike Mullen)

They learned the basics of wrestling a year ago.

They competed in tournaments and a few dual matches and have learned to be tougher.

Now, the members of the Hoover High boys' wrestling team say they're ready for new challenges in the second year of the program's existence.

“They learned the essentials of wrestling last year,” said Tornadoes Coach Mark Bitetti, a world history teacher at the school who started the program last year. “They're picking up where they left off.”

Where they left off in 2011 was without a league.

That has changed this year.

Hoover will compete in the Rio Hondo League, which will also include South Pasadena, San Marino, Monrovia, La Cañada and St. Paul, which is in the infancy stages of its program.

The Tornadoes, who have 80 wrestlers in the program, are scheduled to take part in four tournaments, with hopes of competing in a fifth.

“I don't know what to expect in the league,” said Bietti, who formerly coached the sport in Covina.

“There are some established programs and St. Paul is just like us.”

Hoover, which begins its season with a Dec. 15 tournament at Northview High, has improved this year because more than half of its wrestlers have experience, and have developed wrestling techniques with the help of Bitetti and assistant coach Dave Beard.

“Wrestling is a very technical sport, maybe more than other sports,” Bitetti said. “If you don't have the technical background, you're going to be at a disadvantage. The kids are learning some more of the techniques.”

Beard has seen more of a commitment from his wrestlers.

“I see a lot more commitment,” said Beard, an assistant on the football team. “We're not fresh anymore.

“This is still in the beginning stages.”

Andres Rosas, a senior, and Josh Lee, a sophomore, both went through the beginning stages last year.

They've gone from being inexperienced to “almost being perfect,” Rosas said.

Their efforts have given the Tornadoes hopes of not only competing in league, but winning.

“I want to take league,” said Rosas, who'll compete in the 132-pound weight class, one of the 14 divisions in league, which also include the 106, 113, 120, 126, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and heavyweight divisions.

“I'm setting my standards high. I expect to do better.”

So does Lee, who'll wrestle in the 195-pound division.

“I'm pretty excited,” said Lee, who, like Rosas, played on the Tornadoes football team. “We can get Hoover's name out there.”

Another wrestler who has already established himself is Artur Ghukasyan, a judo fighter who went 2-2 in the competitive Flanders Cup in Lommel, Belgium in November.

Ghukasyan — whose father owns Kenam's Fighting Club in Glendale —has also seen improvements in his teammates.

“I think we'll do better because it's our second year,” said Gukasyan, a junior who will be joined on the wrestling team by Davo Hovhannisyan, a fellow junior and teammate on the club team. “We've been practicing for two years now. We have guys who are experienced wrestlers. We'll do well.”