The post season has always been a tough road for local wrestling teams, but with this year’s shakeup of the post season format — specifically the inclusion of Folsom and Del Oro High in the new Sac-Joaquin Section Division I AA Championships — that road proved to be even more difficult for Turlock and Pitman High.
Despite the elevated level of competition, the Pride and Bulldogs experienced varying degrees of success over the weekend at the SJS Div. I AA Championships with Pitman placing third in team standings and Turlock placing 16th. The two Central California Conference teams also experienced individual success with the Pride fielding two champions and qualifying nine for the SJS Masters Championships and the Bulldogs qualifying four.
“Our goal coming in was double digits and we came one short of that,” Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “We have the SFL in our divisional now, and that has Del Oro and Folsom. They’re the two best teams in the section.”
Angel Velasquez (132) and Lorenzo Lewis (138) came up big for Pitman with their Divisional Championship campaigns. Velasquez and Lewis both beat wrestlers from Del Oro in their finals matches with Velasquez pinning Zach Ruybal and Lewis beating Clay Shropshire, 5-2.
“Lorenzo and Angel both knocked out Del Oro guys…two wins against some really good kids, two kids ranked in the top 10 to 15 in the state,” Vasconcellos said. “It’s hard to wrestle there, they have a lot of fans and they were the best team there this weekend.”
“Going in, they thought they were they best kids in their bracket and they came out and wrestled that way,” he added.
Three other Pride wrestlers, Isiah Perez (113), Adam Velasquez (120) and Cristian Clementi (170), also made it to the finals match of their respective brackets but ultimately finished second. The rest of the Masters-bound class from Pitman includes Gilbert Valadez (145) who placed third, Quentin Hernandez (152) who placed fourth, Julien Barrera (220) who placed sixth and Colby Lankford (160) who placed seventh.
Pitman nearly qualified more wrestlers for Masters, however, as four of its wrestlers just missed the top-eight cut with ninth place efforts. Two of those wrestlers, Trevor Mattox and Jimmy Villegas, lost their deciding matches in overtime with Mattox falling to Dustin Lema (106) of Turlock.
“He had a phenomenal match against him,” Turlock head coach Anthony Gonzalez said.
Lema’s win proved to be big not only because it punched his ticket to Masters with an eighth place finish, but because it was a chance at redemption for the Bulldog after losing to Mattox in the CCC Championships.
“That was a huge win and confidence boost,” Gonzalez said.
Turlock’s top individual performances from the weekend belonged to Isaac Perez (195) who placed sixth while first-year wrestler Julien Arteaga (220) and Rafael Magana (HVY) both placed seventh.
“All year he’s been JV underneath one of our seniors, Chance Holley, who decided not to do the post season with us,” Gonzalez said. “He wasn’t even looking at doing any varsity wrestling with us and just the way everything fell; he’s doing a good job.”
One of Turlock’s divisional qualifiers, Breck Jeffus, was also expected to contend for a Masters qualification but had to withdraw from competition due to a thumb injury.
Pitman and Turlock are now preparing for the two-day SJS Masters Championships at Stockton Arena that begins on Friday.
“We've just got wrestle solid and rely on the gas tank to catch these guys in the third round,” Gonzalez said. “Just take one match at a time and hopefully get as many as we can into State.”
“You have so many good kids in the section and so many good kids in a bracket. I think we have at least seven kids with legit shots,” Vasconcellos said. “It depends who shows up from the other teams and how they end up wrestling. But it would be nice to match our state qualifiers from last year. We had four last year and it would be nice to get four or five this year, maybe more.”