Turlock High wrestling has a long tradition with decades of success.
The program has a large list of state medalists hanging on the wall inside the Bulldog workout room, and the hard-working mentality continues with head coach Mike Contreras and assistant and longtime wrestling coach Anthony Belew.
“I try to set our standards really high all the time, even when we are going to be up against some strong odds, like last year with Pitman being so strong,” said Contreras. “They are very strong; we wrestled them tough and hopefully this year is a different story we will see how it goes.”
Heading into their final year in the Central California Conference, a league title is definitely looming in the eyes of the Bulldogs.
However, they know that in order to achieve such a feat, they will have to go through crosstown and powerhouse Pitman High, which has been steadily overshadowing Turlock over the last few years with a growing list of state qualifiers and collegiate wrestlers, not to mention last year's CCC title.
“Pitman is very talented, we are going to try and be as ready as we can,” said Contreras. “We are banged up right now, I don't have my entire lineup, it's early, so we will see. Hopefully, we get healthy and stay eligible, good things will happen... usually.”
Turlock is coming off a three-way tie in the CCC, but due to the tiebreaker rules, the 'Dogs were pushed to third, officially.
“Varsity was third in CCC, three-way tie with Buhach and Golden Valley and us, but lost in the criteria,” said Contreras. “We are excited, but at the same time, we have to stay to our goals, which is obviously win a league title and place high in Sections and qualify as many guys as we can.”
During the 2016-17 season, Turlock qualified 11 wrestlers to the compete at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament and two advanced to compete at State — Breck Jeffus (197) and William Giron (106).
As a team, Turlock placed 15th at Masters out of 138 schools that competed.
“The outlook is pretty good, we have a talented group of kids but I’ve been in a coaching position where I have had a lot of potential, then ended up not doing much,” said Contreras. “Don't want to get too excited, just want to work hard every day and, hopefully, do the best and my kids stay eligible and healthy.”
Turlock will also return last year's standout in the girls division, Hailey Ward, who became the first freshman girl to win Masters and first freshman girl to qualify for State. She placed eighth at State at 103 pounds.
“Almost everybody is coming back,” said Contreras. “We have a lot of seniors this year, so we will see.
Returning wrestlers who competed at last year’s Masters Tournament include Gio Villegas, Manny Conde, Diego Cornejo and Lance Couchman.
According to coach Contreras, not all the athletes have done their weight assessment so the weight classes are not all filled.
At the moment, only Mike Jeffus (HWY), Breck Jeffus (195), Couchman (170) and Conde (132) are in weight classes.
“We are talented enough to be the champions but we will see how it goes,” said Contreras.
Turlock will open up league with a match at home against Atwater at 6 p.m. Wednesday.