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High expectations for Turlock wrestling
Juan Soria sits out against Luis Flores as the two Turlock grapplers compete within their weight class during Mondays practice. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

Nearly 60 teenagers lined the walls of Turlock High’s wrestling room on Monday. The large and enthusiastic crowd was there to compete within their individual weight classes in the first step towards an expected trimming of the ranks.

The next step will take place today during the Blue and Gold inter-squad challenge matches where the top 28 Bulldogs will be found. Though the expectations of many wrestlers will be crushed, head coach Mike Contreras is focused on a different set of expectations— lofty goals afforded to him with the return of a talented roster.

“We’re hoping to step it up a little more,” Contreras said. “We finished fifth in Sections last year so let’s see if we go top three now.”

In addition to their fifth place Masters performance in 2011, the Bulldogs waged an undefeated Central California Conference campaign, finished first at Divisionals, and advanced four wrestlers to the State Tournament. Now, with last year’s state qualifiers Ernesto Guiang, Jason Valdovinos, and Isaac Bertalotto back for Turlock, Contreras is looking forward to another spectacular season.

The Bulldogs have also welcomed back Masters medalist Rafael Herrera and the Section ranked Ricardo Garcia and Ricky Flores.

“That’s almost half of our varsity lineup that’s ranked in the Section,” Contreras said. “If we stay healthy and eligible, we’ll have a good chance to do big things this season.”

Currently ranked 21st in the Section as a team, Turlock aims to break the top 20 for the first time in several years. The already tough task will be made even more difficult this year due to the changing of divisional foes. With the Modesto Metro Conference’s move to the north, the challenging Delta River League will call the south its home this year.

“We set our goals high but they don’t change. We want to be league champs, divisional champs, and we always want to try to finish in the top 20,” Contreras said. “It’s going to be a lot tougher to win it this year though with the change in the division.”

Still, with a stable of experienced wrestlers, the Bulldogs’ chances at a CCC Championship and an improved post-season showing seem likely. Turlock’s first dual of the season takes place Dec. 5 at home against Madera High.

“They’re definitely hungry,” Contreras said. “Albino (Orozco) and Isaac went to nationals over summer and a lot of our kids got mat time, so there’s a lot of kids with high expectations.”

“We’ll know a lot more after Wednesday,” he added.