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Local schools shine at MidCals
CCC showdown between rivals on the horizon
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Pitman High, Turlock High, and Hilmar High marked the midpoint of the prep wrestling season with a weekend trip to Gilroy for the 2014 Mid Cals Tournament where wrestlers did their best to earn their team's respective third, sixth, and 38th place finishes.

The Pride walked away with six medalists. Lorenzo Lewis (128) finished in 4th place, Nick Valadez (134) finished in 7th place, Gilbert Valadez (140) finished in 3rd place, Quentin Hernandez (154) finished in 6th place, Logan Wolfley (162) finished in second place, and Eric Bejeran (HVY) finished in 5th place.

“We had a few kids out of the lineup, so we probably could have took second. But third place without our full lineup is pretty good,” Pitman Head coach Adam Vasconcellos said.

In comparison, the Bulldogs walked away with only four medalists, though one was crowned champion. Brady Egleston (115) finished in 7th place, Rafael Herrera (128) finished in first place, Albino Orozco (162) finished in third place, and Albert Gonzalez (HVY) finished in 6th place.

“We could have had at least one more medalist, but I think it was a good performance for us, especially considering we didn’t have Isaac in the lineup,” Turlock head coach Mike Contreras said. “A healthy Isaac probably goes into the finals or at least finishes top three.”

As for the Yellowjackets, they had only one medalist, Antonio Melo (184) who finished in 3rd place.


Individual standouts

Though Turlock failed to crack the top three as a team, its first place finish by senior Herrera was a big lift for one of their top tier wrestlers.

After advancing to the finals match with three pins a decision victory, Herrera found himself matched up with Victor Olmos of Gilroy High, a familiar opponent who had bested the Bulldog in years past.

“He’s matched up with that kid twice; last time in December where he got pinned and in this same tournament last year where he got pinned, too,” Contreras said. “He’s also wrestled him in the offseason and was beaten by him.”

This time was different, however. Exiting the first period down 0-2, Herrera managed to earn three near fall points in the second period before notching another point with an escape in the opening of the third period for a 4-2 lead. Olmos took Herrera down with a single leg in the final 10 seconds, however, tying the match and sending it into overtime.

With fans on both sides on their feet and cheering, the match went into triple overtime where Herrera earned two near fall points via a cradle in the final seconds of regulation for a 6-2 win.

“That was awesome for him, especially since it was his 18th birthday. It was a huge confidence booster for Rafael, and I was very proud of him because a lot of times a when guy has your number like that, you wrestle him so many times, and you don’t believe you can do it,” Contreras said. “I kept talking to him and told him to believe in himself and to keep wrestling with the kid, and sure enough he wrestled an awesome match. It was definitely the best match of the finals.”

Pitman’s standout, Wolfley, had his best match in the semi-finals of his division where he took on 2013 State qualifier Bryan Battisto of Harbor High.

“He won a couple matches at State last year and Logan beat him up,” Vasconcellos said.

With a technical fall, a decision, and a pin under his belt prior to the match with Battisto, Wolfley found himself in a position of confidence with a desire for more bonus points.

By the end of the first period Wolfley’s control had already been asserted with a pair of takedowns, resulting in a 4-1 score at the beginning of the second period. The lead grew exponentially in the second, as signs of desperation on Battisto’s part were capitalized on with frequent near falls, resulting in a 10 plus point lead for the Pride grappler.

After choosing the bottom position—against the advice of his coaches— Wolfley earned an escape in the beginning of the third period before he hit one final takedown and earned the win via pin.

“He’s confident; he believes he’s going to win every time he steps out onto the mat. He’s a young man now, he’s not a high school kid anymore,” Vasconcellos said of the senior Wolfley.


Lead up to rivalry dual

Though Mid Cals presented only one Turlock versus Pitman matchup—Bejeran vs. Gonzalez with Bejeran winning via pin—both teams were granted the opportunity of one final scouting call before Thursday’s much-anticipated Central California Conference dual between the Pride and Bulldogs.

Though Pitman bested Turlock in the team rankings of the tournament, both coaches are expecting a close dual.

“Dual meets are completely different,” Vasconcellos said. “It’s going to be close. It’s going to come down to who can get the most bonus points.”

“It’s going to be an exciting dual. It’s going to come down to the wire, who wants it more, who catches the breaks, and who gets the bonus points,” Contreras said. “I think we’re two evenly matched teams.”

The Bulldogs are expected to enter the dual with a healthy Isaac Bertalotto, a stand out junior and 2013 State medalist who has been sidelined for the past few weeks. Bertalotto’s return should be a big boon in Turlock’s effort to beat the Pride, who are in a position to claim their first CCC title with a win over the Bulldogs.

“All intentions is that he’ll be ready for Thursday,” Contreras said of Bertalotto. “It was precautionary to keep him out of Mid Cals. That tournament doesn’t mean anything compared to what our dual meets mean and our league tournament that’s coming up, so we figured better safe than sorry.”

“We know Bertalotto will be back for Thursday,” Vasconcellos said.

While the individual matchups aren’t official, both coaches are expecting fireworks in several different weight divisions. Still, there is bound to be surprises on the lineup sheet, and both coaches are expecting that as well.

“It’s like a chess match. We don’t know where they’re going to weigh in their best kids and they don’t know where I’m going to weigh in my best kids,” Contreras said. “We won’t know until we get to weigh-ins. I’m sure they have their strategy and I know we have ours, so we’ll see whose strategy works out best.”

“As coaches we have discussions about it, but you never know what the other team is going to do when it comes time to weigh in,” Vasconcellos said. “But if the lineups stay the same as they have in past duals and from this weekend, we’ll see Valadez match up with Herrera and Logan match up with Orozco, and those are top 15 wrestlers right there. So it should be exciting.”

Both teams are currently undefeated in the CCC, but with Pitman’s win over league contenders Golden Valley High, its wrestlers have a leg up on the race. If Turlock can defeat the Pride, it will have to follow with another tough dual against the Cougars the following week just to keep its league title hopes alive.

“Like I told our guys, of course they want to win [a league title], they haven’t won one yet—we’ve been winning them. We’re going for our 7th in the last 10 years, so we’ve been there done that and they haven’t won, but I know they’re ready. I’ve seen their team and they’re good,” Contreras said. “Our team’s got to wrestle up and they’ve got to wrestle smart matches and not give up bonus points. It’s going to come down to who wants it more and who makes fewer mistakes.”

“The kids are excited and ready. I can’t even count how many matches they’ve all wrestled during the off season and up until this point. They’ve worked so hard and so they’re ready for Thursday,” Vasconcellos said.

The dual will be held at Pitman High today and is expected to begin at 7:30 p.m.