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Local wrestling programs see five champions, advance 15 to State
Pitman wrestling Master's
In the team scores, Pitman finished in fourth place with a score of 155, just three points behind Del Oro at the Sac-Joaquin Section Master’s tournament. Pitman’s girls took 5th with three wrestlers. Combined, Pitman was second behind Del Oro, losing by four points in overall program score, with girls and boys together (Photo contributed by Adam Vasconcellos ).

Pitman (8), Turlock (4), Hilmar (2) and Hughson (1) are sending a combined 15 wrestlers to the CIF State Tournament this upcoming weekend after a standout performance at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters that saw five champions crowned from Pitman and Turlock High. 

“When you go to State, you never know what is going to happen, kids have to be ready to go, we want all kids to perform,” said Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos. “Now just a few days away, time to get going.” 

The Master’s tournament took place from Stockton Arena where hundreds of wrestlers took to the mat for an opportunity to stamp their ticket to the CIF State tournament.

Pitman crowned three champions with sophomore Lilly Freitas (150) making it back-to-back and freshman Lilly Avalos (106) notching her first for the Pride on the girls side. Kendall La Rosa (160) placed first for the Pride on the boys side.

Turlock had two winners after Hailey Ward (101) made history by winning her fourth straight Master’s Championship. Adrian Heras (132) won his bracket outright as well for Turlock High. 

“I am pretty happy with our performance, top 10 three times in a row. We are feeling pretty good. Can’t complain with the Master’s result,” said THS head coach Mike Contreras. 

In the team scores, Pitman finished in fourth place with a score of 155, just three points behind Del Oro. Pitman’s girls took 5th with three wrestlers. Turlock’s boys took ninth with a score of 95.5. 

Combined, Pitman was second behind Del Oro, losing by four points in overall program score, with girls and boys together. 

Turlock wrestling Master's
Turlock High's Will Giron (126), Adrian Heras (132), Hailey Ward (101) and Ethan Ward (106) are pictured after the Sac-Joaquin Section Master’s tournament this past weekend from Stockton Arena (Photo contributed by Mike Contreras ).

History is being made this year with a brother and sister duo from Turlock High making it to the CIF State tournament in the same year in Hailey Ward and Ethan Ward (106). 

“It was really exciting and cool to see, so excited and it's cool when kids accomplish their goals like that,” said Contreras. “Ethan hugged us and ran over and Hailey was finishing her championship match and picked her up and just so happy to see their success.” 

Hailey Ward went a staggering 4-0, securing her fourth straight Master’s, and winning her final match after a 6-0 decision. 

“It’s crazy what she did in one of the fastest growing sports for girls, but for Hailey, just dominating,” said Contreras.

Hailey’s brother, freshman Ethan, took third after he made a miraculous run in the consolation bracket that saw him wrestle a total of eight matches and went 7-1 in the two-day event. He won the third-place match following a 2-0 decision. 

“Highest placing freshman at Master’s, only kid to place that high for boys is Lewis Gonzales, if he repeats what he did, he will be doing good for himself,” said Contreras. “All the matches he had down the stretch were nail biters. Now we will see how it pans out, see if we can get those four medals.” 

Turlock had another champion in Adrian Heras (132), who became a two-time Master’s champion. 

Heras went on to finish his first four matches via fall before he won the final match, 11-5. 

Will Giron (126) of Turlock was the other qualifier for the Bulldogs after he reached the final in his bracket but fell in a close 5-4 decision. 

Pitman’s three crowned champions dominated their brackets and made it look easy at times. 

Lilly ‘Lil Beast’ Avalos (106) won her first three matches via fall before reaching the final. In the final, she dominated the No. 3 wrestler in the state and won a 14-3 major decision. 

Ranked No. 1 in the state, Freitas (150) made it back-to-back Master’s Champion after she won all four of her matches via fall, ending with a win via fall in the first period of the final after just 73 seconds. 

Kendall La Rosa (160) dominated his bracket outright as well, and went a perfect 5-0, ending the final with a 10-7 decision victory.

The other qualifiers for state from Pitman included Alana Ontiveros (137), Tal Malhi (182), Juan Mora (220), Isaiah Ontiveros (152) and Izzy Tubera (120). 

Tal Malhi reached the final and ended up falling a 12-1 major decision, but punched his ticket to state. 

Mora, who is No. 5 in state, reached the final as well, but fell to No. 2 in state from Elk Grove, Peter Ming. Mora lost a 7-1 decision to Ming. 

“Mora had a great tournament, in quarterfinal, took on No. 12 and No. 9 in the state, in semifinals and beat both of them,” said Vasconcellos. 

Isaiah Ontiveros took 5th, but reached the semifinals prior to losing and getting bumped to the consolation bracket where he made a run into the 5th place match where came out on top. 

Alana Ontiveros managed to take sixth place and punch her ticket to State. 

Tubera reached the final after winning three of his first four matches via fall. He lost by default in the final due to a nagging injury. 

“He got a pin in the semifinals, which is pretty hard to do at Master’s,” said Vasconcellos of Tubera. “He is a stud, looking to be a three-time State medalist and we have never had a three-time State medalist before. A little history he is chasing.” 

Hilmar will be sending two wrestlers to state in Efrain Duenas (182) and Mark LaBass (195). 

“I am ecstatic, on cloud 9, and I couldn’t sleep last night with next level joy… the adrenaline you would say,” said Hilmar head coach Justin Nash. 

Duenas went on to reach the quarterfinals before he lost and fell into the consolation bracket. 

Once in the consolation bracket, all bets were off and Duenas went on a tear, winning four straight matches en route to a third-place finish. Duenas won his third-place match via fall. 

“Efrain was fully prepared as well, and just before November he made a pact about saying he would see me at State. He was at Master’s last year, but didn’t go to State,” said Nash. “Efrain is a great character who walks around campus and people respect him because they want to because he is a good person, great leader by example, on the mat and on campus, he is a next level talent that is ready to lead by example.” 

LaBass won his first two matches before he wrestled through the consolation bracket and was battling for fifth place, but he lost the match and finished in sixth place. 

Hughson’s Carson Hatch (220) made some history for himself and his school after advancing to State in just his second year of wrestling. 

“It was a little bit of a surprise because he has only been wrestling for two years, but he has been working hard and that is what I teach these kids, you work hard and you get results,” said Hughson head coach Tony Bargas. 

Hatch went on to place sixth at Master’s after a wild bracket and also became the first Huskies wrestler to make it to State since Chase Herrin reached state in 2014. 

The CIF Tournament is slated to take place from Mechanics Bank Arena Theater and Convention Center (formerly known as Rabobank Arena) in Bakersfield with the three-day event kicking off on Thursday morning and concluding on Saturday afternoon.