Local wrestlers dominated the mats at this past weekend’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament.
Fourteen boys and girls between Pitman High and Turlock High schools are booking their trips to Bakersfield after qualifying for the 2023 CIF State Wrestling Championships at the Masters tournament.
The weekend at Masters at the Stockton Arena was highlighted by the girls team of Pitman High, which saw all four of their wrestlers medal and quality for State. Lilly Avalos (121), Baya Austin (126) and Alana Ontiveros (138) all came away as Masters champions while Gabby Austin (132) earned second place. Champions Avalos, Austin and Ontiveros each swept their brackets with four pins.
The group of girls will be joined by Alex Talemante (P4-138), Elyjah Austin (P-5-152), Carter Vannest (P4-160), Mason Ontiveros (P2-170) and Achilles Clarke (P2-220).
“Nine is the most our school has ever had go to State,” said Pride head coch Adam Vasconcellos. “We have our five boys and our four girls. Our boys are the fourth best male team, and then our girls are the best girls team in the Section. It's pretty exciting for our program to be one of the top and arguably the most well-rounded program with the level of our girls and our boys together.”
Of the group, Avalos will look to avenge her second-place finish at last year’s State tournament while Ontiveros hopes to best her third-place finish and become the first ever three-time State medalist in school history.
“Honestly, if these girls can repeat the performance from this week, I think we have a shot at being team state champions, which some people never even have an opportunity in our lifetime to be a part of something like that,” said Vasconcelos. “If our girls keep doing what they're doing and keep wrestling the way that they're wrestling, it would not surprise me if all four of them could make the finals next week… So far, they have risen to the challenge… These girls, they just keep stepping up. They're tough. They know that they have an opportunity here that might not ever come back again.”
For Turlock, the big winner of the weekend was Isaiah Bertalotto (138), who earned first-place in his bracket. Of Bertalotto’s four match wins, three were by fall.
At the State tournament, Bertalotto will be joined by teammates Ethan Ward (P3-113), Jeremiah Bertalotto (P3-134), Eli Watson (P6-182) and Heidi Judson (P3-111).
“We are super excited to be taking four boys and one girl to CIF State,” said Turlock head coach Mike Contreras. “Anytime you finish top three at SJS Masters, you put yourself in a better position in the state bracket… All the wrestlers are focused on state and trying to get on that podium.
“Jeremiah was the favorite and was upset in the semifinals but did a great job of rebounding to get third winning a very hard-fought match in the third place match, securing a takedown in the last seconds. Ethan also rebounded well from a tough semifinal match that he lost in the last seconds. He bounced back to get third winning a hard-fought battle against a kid he was facing for the third time this season. Heidi did an amazing job placing third as essentially a second-year wrestler. Her hard work and perseverance paid off big time.”
Also competing in Stockton were Ezra Dueñas and Cody Bray of Hilmar High. Dueñas (145) and Bray (195) each won their opening round matches, but were eliminated in their next contests. Hilmar head coach Justin Nash praised his wrestlers on social media after the tournament.
“Unfortunately, Hilmar's wrestling season has come to an end as Ezra and Cody were eliminated today at Masters. Congratulations to you both for making to this level,” Nash said in a Facebook post via the Hilmar High Wrestling page.
As for the CIF State Championships, the tournament will run over the course of three days from Thursday through Saturday at the Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield. Gates to the venue will open at 8 a.m. each day. Ticket prices vary and are available to purchase at the Mechanics Bank Arena box office or online at AXS.com.