Wrestling is more than competitive in the town of Turlock, as Pitman and Turlock high schools have histories of success.
Both have a list of league titles, section qualifiers and state medalists, and an even lengthier list of collegiate wrestlers, and they just keep on rolling. And this year is expected to be even better for both programs.
Turlock won the CCC last year and they return two state medalists after advancing three to the CIF State tournament. Across town, Pitman is looking like one of the best teams in the section in any division and head coach Adam Vasconcellos is ecstatic.
“It’s difficult to say anything too early because with grades and everything, things can change so quickly,” said Vasconcellos. “We have the potential to be really good this year. Our junior class is the deepest we’ve ever had on campus…we have 11 juniors who have been here since the beginning. This year and next year are the years to do something special.”
“I feel going into this new league. We should be one of the favorites, I would guess since we won league last year and we’ve got a good core of returners,” said Turlock head coach Mike Contreras. “We shall see how it goes. I don’t know what to expect.”
The one thing Contreras can expect is that Mike Jeffus and Will Giron will lead the team.
It helps that the ‘Dogs also return Lance Couchman, Joe Silva, Adrian Heras and Gus Bonilla.
“We have a good core of kids coming back. Hopefully guys stay healthy and all that,” said Contreras. “I think our goals will be the same as usual — try and win the league of course, try and qualify as many guys as we can to divisional, masters and state tournament. I don’t know how team duals will work, but I think we have a shot to be in the D-II tournament as well and reach the finals again.”
Pitman’s lengthy list of returners include state qualifiers Sammy Silviera and Kendall La Rosa along with Cesar Tellez, Nolan Lok and Jaron Azevedo.
Incoming freshmen Connor La Rosa and Julian Rosales are also expected to have a standout first year according to Vasconcellos.
“We coach our kids more than just in the wrestling room, it is about doing the right things, making right decisions and being good people and I think that it rubs off on everybody,” said Vasconcellos. “They are disciplined and it took time; a little bit of change when I started. This is my 11th year now, but when I first got here, we were down to 20 something wrestlers, but I just do things differently and so the culture change has taken us a while, but now we haven’t lost a JV dual meet in five years.”
This could be a reason why the varsity team has been so competitive year in and year out.
So far, the team this year is sitting at over 60 said Vasconcellos. Pitman is a team that placed first in the league tournament last year, placed second at divisionals, top six at master’s and top 15 in the state.
“All these younger guys are also seeing us sending our kids to college and it draws them in,” said Vasconcellos. “Our kids are moving on and seeing the right things. They know that it is possible to move on and they believe it. It is going to be a battle to get into our lineup this season, but a lot of the guys have bought in, they want to do it.”
The most sought out wrestler in the area, and perhaps the state, has to be freshman Lily Freitas, who recently won Reno Worlds, competing against boys two years older than her.
“Lily is a once-in-a-lifetime wrestler. You don’t have kids that come in and dominate their age and division and above,” said Vasconcellos. “She hasn’t even wrestled kids her age for two to three years because she is looking for challenges. She truly believes that because she has worked so hard, she has earned the ability to be so dominant which is what it is, she knows the work is in.”
Freitas is also the first Pitman female wrestler.
“If you told me five years ago that a girl would come in and be able to compete with our guys in our wrestling room, I would have had trouble believing it,” said Vasconcellos. “She is such a mentally tough competitor and she loves it, it is different. She doesn’t fall behind anywhere, she is a beast in the weight room. She is such an intelligent person, she is above and beyond in every area. She has taken multiple honors courses, she has straight As, and she is something special. If we can keep her healthy and work some small things here and there, the boys know that this year we will have a state champ because Lily is going to get it done.”
Turlock will take on El Capitan in an exhibition dual at 6 p.m. Nov. 28.
“I expect us to win the new league, new league champions and try and qualify as many kids as we can for the playoffs for each and every tournament,” Contreras added. “That is what our goal is every year, just trying to work hard at practice, we will see how it goes.”
Pitman will compete in the Granite Bay Invitational at 9 a.m. on Dec. 1.
“We have the same mindset every year, when it comes to putting in the right guys in the lineup, we know our team will be competitive regardless,” Vasconcellos added. “We want to win league and all that, it is important, but our individual goals for each kid, that is more important.”