One step away from State. That’s what a select few wrestlers are thinking after Saturday’s conclusion of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Tournament at Delhi High.
Hours of competition across four mats produced quality performances from a number of wrestlers from the 26 schools present, but it was the trio of Antonio Melo, Elijah Moon, and Jesse Flores that made the most of their opportunity as each earned a spot in this weekend’s Master’s Tournament at Stockton Arena.
Melo (182) and Moon (160) came up big for Hilmar High with their respective 1st and 4th place finishes while Flores (HWY) made history for Delhi with his 2nd place finish.
“I’m pretty pumped up and now I’m getting ready for sections. All my hard work is paying off right now,” Melo said.
“I’m happy for him, he represents us well. He worked hard to get here, he dropped 20 pounds to be faster,” Delhi head coach Ray Cedres said of Flores. “Nobody gave him a chance to even move up, he got a low seed because he’s a freshman and nobody knows anything about him.”
Hilmar entered Saturday’s competition with four wrestlers—Melo and Moon in the championship rounds and the freshman tandem of Shane DeSalles (126) and Cody Renfro (152) in the consolation rounds. DeSalles and Renfro finished 6th and 5th, respectively.
“The kids keep me young and keep me coming back, we just have hard workers,” Hilmar head coach Bruce Scott said of his wrestlers.
For Melo, Saturday’s championship victory was a culmination of hard work four years in the making as he began his journey on the mat his freshman year. After winning the Division V championship last year, Melo decided to withdraw himself from football in his senior year to concentrate on improving his wrestling skills and earn a State bid—a decision that must have been difficult considering Hilmar’s stellar 2013-14 football season.
“He has a tireless work ethic. He’s always trying to make sure he’s doing the right things, he’s always trying to improve. He basically committed himself to being a year-long wrestler this year and forego his senior year of football,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, the crème of the crop guys are one-sport athletes. It’s hard to be a three-sport athlete and really be great.”
Melo earned his championship with a finals victory over Logan Sullivan of Calaveras High.
“I’m trying to get a medal at State—I’m not going to try, I’m going to get a medal at State,” Melo said. “It’s very important because I’ve been working very hard for it.”
Melo was very nearly joined in the champion’s circle by Delhi’s Flores who snowballed his undefeated Southern Athletic League season into day one of the Division V Tournament as he displayed a degree of dominance not typically seen at the freshman level.
By day two, Flores found himself in the finals match against Vacaville Christian’s Cyrus Javan. Flores contended with Jevan, but by the second period the Hawk found himself in an unfamiliar position, underneath his opponent where he was quickly turned to his back and pinned. It was his first loss all season.
“Now I know that there is somebody better than me,” Flores said. “I think I just need to work harder. I did a good job this season, but there’s always going to be someone better than me, so I need to work harder.”
The second place finish—along with his SAL championship—has made Flores Delhi’s most decorated wrestler to date.
“I see it (the loss) motivating him, because nobody has tested him like this. I always told him that somebody’s going to be able to put you on your back, and there it was,” Cedres said. “Hopefully he does learn from it and hopefully he draws him in the first round (of Masters).”
Denair High was also in the mix on Saturday, and even though it didn’t advance any wrestlers to the Masters, it did finish with two wrestlers in the top five of their weight classes as Indiana Olave (126) and Luis Mendoza (220) both finished in 5th place.
Now, Melo, Moon, and Flores will prepare for this weekend’s Master’s Tournament where they will face a much higher level of competition as they eye the ultimate prize for prep wrestlers—State.
“I think, really, what he need to do know is just continue to do what he has been doing,” Scott said of Melo.
“By the time we get to Masters I’ll be ready to wrestle. Hopefully I win it, take it, and make it to State if I can,” Flores said.