The 2017-18 winter season was the final year competing in the Central California Conference for the Turlock High varsity wrestling team and it couldn’t have gone any better.
The Bulldogs closed out with a perfect 6-0 CCC record after they topped crosstown foe Pitman (4-2), who were also competing in their final dual in the CCC, in the Pride’s gym on Wednesday night with a 42-19 final.
“Last time they beat us was in 2016, but it is what it is. We are still going to have a good postseason, some of our wrestlers did well tonight,” said Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos. “Our 120-pounder lost to Will Giron, who is ranked fifth in state, all he needed was a takedown, but our boys will bounce back.”
“I guess we will give them the JV championship, but we will go ahead and take the varsity. That is the one we got,” said Turlock head coach Mike Contreras. “Our boys were prepared, this was the first time all season long we had our full lineup on the mat, so now it’s time to go to Stockton and win a team title because we have a good chance going to Division-II this year.”
The Bulldogs advance to the Section team duals along with El Capitan.
“I am very proud of our team. They battled through a lot of injuries and adversity. It was cool to have them on the mat, competing and doing well,” said Contreras.
Heading in with just one loss in the CCC, the Pride were alive for a team postseason berth, but it didn’t start off well on Wednesday.
The first match started in the 170-pound division as Lance Couchman (Turlock) edged out Pitman’s Jesus Padilla after a three-round battle where Couchman pulled off a 10-6 victory and put the ‘Dogs up 3-0.
“We were missing some guys. We are missing our guy below, Izzy Tubera, if you are missing a state medalist down low you have to make up points somewhere,” said Vasconcellos. “We had to move guys, bump guys, just the way it goes. Some of those matches were really close and we needed to win those close ones, but things didn’t go our way.”
In the following match, Pitman’s Jaron Azevedo (182) won a convincing and dominant 10-0 victory, nearing a pin in the closing seconds as the Pride went up 4-3 after two matches.
Breck Jeffus (195) followed with a win via forfeit for the Bulldogs.
Brendan Tallent (220) of Pitman won his match over Juan Estrada (Turlock) in a close 3-1 decision that lasted three periods and cut the deficit to 9-7.
The most anticipated and significant match of the day came when last year’s Pride state medalist in Isaiah Perez (HWY) was matched with Turlock’s strongest wrestler in Mike Jeffus.
The match lived up to the excitement as the crowds from both sides roared with momentum swings wavering throughout the three periods.
Perez took a quick 5-2 lead after the first, then led 8-6 once the second concluded.
Jeffus went on to outscore Perez in the third, after Perez re-aggravated his already banged up right ankle. Jeffus took advantage of the hobbling Perez and won in a wild 12-9 final.
Turlock’s lead grew to 12-7 and they never gave it up, winning nine matches outright for the night.
Four of the remaining matches ended in pins by Turlock’s Gus Bonilla (106), Gio Villegas (113), Adrian Heras (126) and Mauricio Garcia (160).
Pitman’s Kendall La Rosa (152), Nolan Lok (145), and Sammy Silveira (135) each picked up a win for the Pride, along with Tallent and Azevedo.
“We lost matches that we needed to win tonight, just felt like things kept falling their way,” Vasconcellos added. “It’s the way it goes sometimes. We have wrestlers who were injured, like Isaiah is fine but he is still hurt but trying to wrestle for us, it was a tough thing, wrestle or not, obviously taking this week off is going to be huge for our kids.”
Turlock, along with Hilmar, advance to the Section Team Duals from Lincoln of Stockton at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Pitman will next compete at the CCC Championships at 9 a.m. Feb. 8.