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Masters of their fates
Pitmans Saavedra, Turlocks Garcia earn Section titles
Saavedra pic1
Pitman High freshman Emilio Saavedra, right, prepares to wrestle. Saavedra did not have much trouble against Gionn Peralta of Vacaville High, eventually pinning him in the second period to become Pitman's first Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament winner on Saturday night at Stockton Arena. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament Results

Top Local Finishers

103 — 1st, Emilio Saavedra, Pitman; 8th, Jason Valdovinos, Turlock

125 — 1st, Fabian Garcia, Turlock; 5th, Tyler Klinkhammer, Pitman

135 — 6th, Andrew Perez, Pitman

STOCKTON — Fabian Garcia and Emilio Saavedra are two different wrestlers from two different sides of Turlock.

For one thing, they go to rival schools.

Garcia is a senior at Turlock High who’s looking for his fourth state medal.

Saavedra is a first-time prep wrestler at Pitman High who is ranked No. 1 in his weight class.

On Saturday night, however, they shared the same glory at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at Stockton Arena.

Saavedra, who’s been grappling for most of his young life, ran through his 103-pound bracket by earning a pin from all five of his matches. The freshman’s domination accumulated in pinning Vacaville High’s Gionn Peralta with 20 seconds left in the second period.

Saavedra will look to live up to his No. 1 state ranking at this weekend’s CIF State Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, with the two-day event starting Friday morning. He’s one of four local wrestlers to qualify.

Moments later, Turlock’s Garcia found himself on his back. For just a second, though. He bounced back to take a 17-4 decision over Casa Roble High’s Auston Wulfert in the 125-pound final for his third Masters title — tying former two-time state champion and current Turlock assistant coach Lewis Gonzalez’s mark.

Now, Garcia is making a trip to the state tournament for the fourth time, though he hopes this time he comes away with a title.

He wanted to pin Wulfert, since Garcia entered Saturday’s title match with 11 straight falls. But Wulfert was just too tough.

“Too strong, way too strong,” Garcia said. “He felt like the Hulk.”

And Garcia felt that strength, as he suffered a headbutt to the nose that forced him to ice it after the match. This week, he’s been practicing with a facemask. Coach Mike Contreras said that Garcia will wrestle without the special equipment during the state meet unless his hurt nose becomes too painful to handle.

“I’m anxious, excited, happy, scared — everything at the same time,” Garcia said about competing in his last high school tournament. “I have mixed emotions.”

For Saavedra, he had nerves heading into his first Masters title match. But at his age, he has learned to block out all his negative thoughts. He’s been doing that all season, winning numerous tournaments and climbing his way up the state rankings.

With that attitude, he became Pitman’s first Masters champion.

“I try not to be nervous before the match, just like all my other matches,” Saavedra said. “I kept my mind off all the nerves, the stuff that would stop me from winning.”

He was one of three Pitman wrestlers to qualify. Seniors Tyler Klinkhammer and Andrew Perez were the other two after finishing in the top seven of their respective divisions.

Klinkhammer, who began wrestling as a freshman, placed fifth at 125 — the same weight class as Turlock’s Garcia. Klinkhammer muscled his way through the tournament, highlighted by a 6-2 quarterfinal win over Granite Bay High’s Andrew Broadland to reach the semifinals.

“It’s been a goal all year,” Klinkhammer said about reaching the state meet. “I’ve wanted it for a long time, since as a freshman. Now that I’m a senior, I finally did it. I’m really proud.”

Perez, Pitman’s lone state placer from last season, wasn’t happy with his run at the Masters tournament. In his 130-pound semifinal match against Roseville High’s Dylan Jankovich, Perez was ahead 5-0 after the first period. His opponent came back to win with a 7-6 decision.

“Andrew didn’t have the greatest tournament,” Pitman coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “He lost some matches. The important thing is that he’s in. He’s a returning state placer. He’s placed before. You gotta hope that he comes back and get back into the groove.”

Perhaps at this very moment, Perez is somewhere trying to perfect his technique.

“If this is my last tournament ever,” he said on Saturday night in one of the hallways at Stockton Arena, “I’d be disgusted with myself. I can’t finish off high school like this. I know it means a lot to my family, my dad, so I’m going to make him proud and myself proud and make my family name proud. I gotta pick it up and do what I can with what I got.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.