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Pitman wrestling off to hot start with record participation
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The Pitman boys wrestling team is on a roll, most recently grabbing a first-place team finish at the Ceres Invitational Team Championship. Of those competing, nine were freshmen, something that excited head coach Adam Vasconcellos, who describes this year’s freshman class as the one of the best in school history (Photo contributed).

When speaking to almost every high school wrestling coach, one of the most common issues they say they deal with is maintaining participation. Over at Pitman High School, head wrestling coach Adam Vasconcellos has a very different and much better problem.

“We have a ton of kids,” Vasconcellos said with a chuckle. “We started out with 95 wrestlers and are with 86 kids now. Just organizing transportation and getting gear for all the kids has been pretty tough this year. And we also have a pretty small wrestling room, so it’s been pretty crazy, but it’s also a very exciting time.”

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Lilly Avalos, Baya Austin and Alana Ontiveros are just a few of the many girl grapplers who are looking to once again lead the Pride to statewide dominance (Photo contributed).

According to Vasconcellos, the program typically starts the season with around 50 wrestlers and usual finishes with around 40. He explained that seeing a large number of local children excited and passionate about the sport is something to be proud of.

“Wrestling is not easy. It’s different for kids who haven’t done it their entire lives. We live in an instant gratification-type of time, and wrestling takes years before you start to find success, and the fact that we have this many kids wanting to do the hard work is exciting for me,” he said.

One of the main reasons for the deep roster is the fact that the program only lost one wrestler to graduation — 152-pounder Julian Rosales, who now competes at the University of Nebraska Wesleyan. And of the returners, several had stints at the California State tournament and the Section Master’s tournament.


Head coach: Adam Vasconcellos, 16th season

Key losses: Julian Rosales (152)

Key returners: Achilles Clarke (220), Alex Talemante (138), Lilly Avalos (121), Alana Ontiveros (143)

Key newcomers: Mason Ontiveros (170-182)

That group of returners includes 121-pounder Lilly Avalos, who placed second at state last season, and Alana Ontiveros, who had a third-place state finish at 143-pounds. Other returners who competed are Achilles Clarke, Lexie Capote and Gabby Austin.

Another factor that Vasconcellos attributes this season’s early success to is the class of 2026. He even made the bold statement claiming that the group is the best freshman class in the history of Pitman High School.

Of the talented freshmen, Vasconcellos highlighted Mason Ontiveros. Ontiveros competes in weight classes between 170 lbs. and 182 lbs. and has already achieved an 18-0 record with 17 pins, meaning that only one of his matches thus far has gone the distance.

“He was somebody who we knew was going to be good,” Vasconcellos said. “He wrestled in our youth program since he was very young, and he’s already ranked top 10 in the state just based off of his performances so far. He’s someone we’re all really excited about.”

Vasconcellos also had high praise for freshman Baya Austin, who is the highest ranked incoming frosh competitor in the state of California, according to

So far in the young 2022-23 season, the Pride have put together impressive performances at each of the tournaments they have competed in. At the Ladies Chukchansi Invitational on Dec. 2, Avalos, Baya Austin and Alana Ontiveros each won first-place in their respective weight classes. The next day at the Boys Chukchansi Invitational, the Pride placed third overall as a team. On Dec. 10, the boys impressed again, this time with a first-place finish at the Bay Area 59 at Castro Valley High.

The dominance for both teams continued last week. On Dec. 22, the trio of Avalos, Austin and Ontiveros had first-place finishes at the 2022 Super Girls Showdown. The boys followed up the next day by claiming the Ceres Invitational Team Championship.

And while great on-the-mat results are a major goal for the Pride wrestling program, Vasconcellos made it a point of emphasis for the student-athletes to continue to excel in the classroom and aim to repeat as CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Academic Champions, which honors the teams in each athletic season with the highest combined GPAs.

“On top of us trying to return to the state competitions, our job as coaches is to prepare these kids for college,” Vasconcellos said. “Last year we had the highest GPA in the Section for wrestling, so we’re trying to win that again too. That’s a big deal for our program.”