By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Five Pride grapplers medal at home tourney
rumble pic1
Eric Ruezga records a technical fall victory for Pitman over Johnny Fuentes of Linden during the second round of the Rumble in the Jungle. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

Normally Pitman High’s aim is a top tier finish at its annual home tournament, the Rumble in the Jungle, but with eight wrestlers sidelined due to match count the Pride hit the mat on Saturday with their sights set on individual success.

By tournament’s end Pitman had achieved its goal, medaling five wrestlers and finishing 9th as a team with 90.5 points.

“I knew we weren’t going to finish as best as we could have with those kids missing,” Pitman’s head coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “But some of our guys wrestled really well.”

Ramon Martinez (220) and Vincent Flores (182) secured sixth place finishes and Eric Ruezga (132) notched a fifth place finish while Lorenzo Lewis (120) surprised with his third place performance and Logan Wolfley (152) nabbed gold as Pitman’s sole champion.

Saturday marked Wolfley’s first tournament championship in the season that has been hindered by injury. Wolfley’s road to gold was paved by three major decisions; the first against Alan Valdez of San Leandro High, the second against Mark Rodriguez of Central High, and the final against Colby Williamson of Buhach Colony High.

“He’s made the finals a couple of times before so it was good for him to finally get a tournament championship,” Vasconcellos said.

Lewis and Ruezga’s performance on Saturday were also noteworthy. The two fairly inexperienced wrestlers—boasting only 20 and four matches respectively—stepped in for their inactive teammates and earned valuable experience that Vasconcellos hopes will benefit the Pride at the Central California Conference League Tournament on Feb. 6.

“It was good for him to get out and wrestle well; to put a tournament together,” Vasconcellos said of Lewis.

“We’re trying to get him ready for the league tournament,” he added about Ruezga.

The Pride (3-1 CCC) have one more CCC dual before the league tournament, against rival Turlock High on Wednesday.

“If we can get healthy, get our guys in the lineup, you never know what can happen in a dual,” Vasconcellos said. “But we’re trying to get as many kids into divisional and get them to peak right now.”

Also present at Saturday’s Rumble was Hilmar High, representing the Trans Valley League along with rivals Escalon, Hughson, Modesto Christian, and Orestimba High. With only seven varsity wrestlers, the Yellowjackets managed a 16th place team finish with 56.5 points—ahead of the Crusaders and Warriors—and walked away with two silver medals.

Again, it was Jesse Izazaga (182) and Antonio Mello (195) who led the ‘Jackets.

Izazaga got his day started with a quick pin against Nick Crilly of Gregori High before pulling out a tight 9-8 decision in his next match against Adrian Vizcaino of Central Valley High. Izazaga notched decisions over Davidson Ribeiro of Buhach Colony High and Aaron Mota of Orestimba but was unable to finish AJ Camerena of Escalon in the final.

“Jesse has been coming on strong, which is good to see in his senior year,” Hilmar’s assistant coach Howie Tremble said.

Mello’s road to second place was a bit easier, starting with byes in rounds one and two. A major decision over David Fields of San Leandro and a pin over Dakota Steinkamp of Linden High placed Mello in the final against Emilio Ochoa of Atwater who eked out a 7-5 decision for the gold.

“Mello is rolling on his good season from last year,” Tremble said. “We’ll see if we can get him into Sections.”

“They’ve been working hard in the room and trying to put themselves in a good place to make it to the post-season,” he added.

Before then, Hilmar will dual Hughson on Wednesday and compete in the TVL League Tournament the following week.