Willo Rodriguez, Ed. D.
When Willo Rodriguez took over as West Valley’s men’s water polo head coach in 2016, he had some big flip-flops to fill. Rodriguez succeeded the legendary Bruce Watson, now the head man at San José State and the winner of six CCCAA state championships at West Valley. Rodriguez has filled those shoes admirably, taking home three NorCal and three Coast Coach of the Year trophies.
Rodriguez was an All-American for Watson when the Vikings won their first title in 1998 and again in 1999, when West Valley went undefeated, and then was a two-time All-American at Pepperdine. After assistant coaching stints at Pepperdine, the University of La Verne, and USC, Rodriguez returned to Saratoga in 2016 to lead his community college alma mater. The San Juan, Puerto Rico native, who graduated from Bell Gardens High School in southern California in 1998 was also the head coach fo the Puerto Rico Men’s National Team that competed in the 2019 Pan-Am Games. He earned his BA at Pepperdine (2003), his Master’s at Azusa Pacific (2010) and his Ed.D at Pepperdine (2019).
He has compiled an 89-26 overall mark at West Valley. More impressively, his Vikings are 24-1 in the Coast Conference, going 8-0 in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The 2016 Vikings finished third in the state, as did the 2018 team. Under Rodriguez in 2017, WVC finished second in the state, dropping a 10-8 heartbreaker to Golden West in the title game. West Valley has won the Coast Conference Championship postseason tournament in each of Rodriguez’s four seasons.
Rodriguez teams have featured explosive offenses, tenacious defenses and premier goaltending. His Vikings have outscored opponents 1657-392 overall, 563-72 in the Coast, in four years. He has produced 25 All-Americans in water polo (and many in swimming), 22 All-NorCal players and 28 All-Coast players. Vikings have been named the Coast MVP four straight years – Sina Gonzalez Lara (2016), Ivan Stefanovic (2017), Misael Andino (2018) and Ben Fleming (2019). Gonzalez Lara, Stefanovic and Xavier Domingo were NorCal Players of the Year from 2016-2018.
His biggest influences have been Terry Schroeder, the Pepperdine and Olympic head coach, and Watson. Topping his list of favorite WVC memories is shaving Watson’s trademark mustache after winning the 1998 state championship. Like Watson, Rodrigues expects “excellence” from his athletes in the water and in the classroom. His self-described demanding, yet “fun” coaching style fits in perfectly at West Valley, which he says, can offer a student athlete, the “best facilities, the best connections and the best education in one of the most beautiful places in California.”
Rodriguez wants his Viking players to take “great memories and friendships” with them when they graduate. Great memories, great facilities, a great education and a championship-caliber water polo experience. These are more than just words to Willo Rodriguez. He, after all, left Saratoga to seek his dreams and then returned to ensure the Viking men’s water polo legacy continued.