PaliHi Wrestlers Win at Summer Tourneys

By Sue Pascoe

While most high school athletes have had the summer off, the Palisades High School wrestling team has been doubling down.

Outside the PaliHi gym last week, Coach Aldo Juliano was overseeing a conditioning session, which included having most of his wrestlers carry 45-pound weights as they circled the asphalt basketball courts.

“Some of the smaller guys were carrying 25 and 35 pounds,” Juliano said, “but ‘Peanut’ Aaron Galef always carries 45 pounds. He never slacks and keeps up with the biggest guys.” Galef wrestled at 120 pounds last season.

Mamzah Al-Saudi tries to get Jake Carpenter in a takedown, as Aaron Galef watches.
Mamzah Al-Saudi tries to get Jake Carpenter in a takedown, as Aaron Galef watches.

Even though the wrestlers were sweating in the hot sun, there were lots of smiles, laughs and a feeling of camaraderie.

“We have been practicing five days a week as a team this summer,” said Juliano, the new head coach. “We wrestle two days, lift two days and spend one day on conditioning.”

Juliano has been a mainstay for wrestlers since the sport came to the high school in 2011.

He was the assistant coach under Randy Aguirre, who died of a brain tumor in 2015. Juliano was tasked with not only handling his own grief, but the emotions of his ath- letes. It was up to him to keep morale up and ensure the program continued.

For two years, Juliano worked under head coach Steve Cifonelli, who was summarily dismissed at the end of the school year in June, with no reason given. Juliano is now in charge of the program. “It’s been going really well this summer,” he said.“Not everyone makes every practice, but most of the seniors usually make them all.” He noted that there’s also enthusiasm among the kids coming in from Paul Revere. “We have about six incoming freshmen who have been coming to summer practices, too.”


About three weeks ago, Juliano took six wrestlers to the California State Games, where senior Hamzah Al-Saudi (195 pounds), who reached the state championships last spring, took first.

Senior Jake Carpenter (138 pounds), also won his weight division.

“We have hit a bunch of freestyle tournaments this summer, where Jake, Chance [Chapman], Hamzah, Joseph [Velado], and Peanut have been doing great,” Juliano said. “They have been bringing home medals from every tournament.”

The team’s latest competition was on July 29 at the New Breed Wrestling Summer Tournament in Norwalk.

Chapman took first, and senior Edwin Duarte and junior Galef finished second in their respective weights. Seniors Carpenter, Jose Contreras, Jonathan and Erik Querno took third, as did sophomore Para Pourmoula.

“Kyle Santalices, an incoming freshman, didn’t place, but did good for his first tournament,” Juliano said.

Next up is one of the toughest tournaments of the summer, the Tri-Titans Ultimate Summer Series Wrestling Tournament in San Diego, August 11-13.

“The finals are held on an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway,” said Juliano, who will be able to take only take four or five athletes to this elite event.

Coach Aldo Juliano helps Aaron Galef (left) and Jonathan Querno during a practice.
Coach Aldo Juliano helps Aaron Galef (left) and Jonathan Querno during a practice.

Juliano has already set his goals for the coming season. “I told the kids I want to take seven to State [last year Al-Saudi was the sole qualifier]. That means we would win city and take the most kids a team from our division has taken,” he said. “I asked them to believe in me and jump on my ‘bus’ and push themselves as hard as they can, which will open all kinds of doors for them in the future.”

Juliano, one of six children, attended Cardinal O’Hara High in Marple Newtown, Pennsylvania. He started wrestling his freshman year to stay in shape for soccer, where he was a star goalie.

“I never went back to soccer after I started wrestling,” he said. “I was terrible, but persistent and I worked super hard.” When he was a senior, he was selected team captain and took third in the city.

After graduating, Juliano started working construction, but discovered freestyle wrestling. “I found a great coach who helped me get really good and I started practicing with local college teams like Penn, Drexel and Temple.” He made it to the fourth round of the 1984 Olympic tryouts before he hyperextended an elbow and lost the match.

Then it was on to New York City to study at the Actor’s Studio. Shortly after a show tour, he moved to Santa Monica, where he started doing stand-up comedy.

A fellow comic, Adam Hunter, approached Juliano at the Comedy Store one night and asked him if he would like to help him coach wrestling at Paul Revere. He agreed, and then transitioned to PaliHi with Aguirre.

Comic by night, coach by day.

As he turned back to his team, Juliano said, “They are a great bunch of kids and the last of those who experienced Randy. I want this team to be remembered.”

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