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Pride, Bulldogs set for another CCAL wrestling clash
crosstown clash

Talk to almost any student-athlete or coach from the Pitman High School wrestling program, they will say their biggest goals are to win state championships. Of course, it should always be the top priority for anybody to reach the pinnacle of their profession, but before any of these grapplers start thinking about individual accomplishments, there is unfinished business in team competition.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the Pride, the 15th ranked wrestling program in California according to FloWrestling, will welcome the 39th ranked Turlock Bulldogs into their gymnasium for the final dual of the 2023-2024 Central California Athletic League season. Like the last handful of years, it will determine who wins the conference. 

The Pride head into tonight’s competition, also being coined as the “PIT-BULL” dual, with a 4-0 record, outscoring Gregori, Enochs, Downey and Modesto by a combined score of 272-49. As for the Bulldogs, they have a 3-1 record, with their sole loss coming on Jan. 9 against Gregori. If the Bulldogs are able to pull off the upset, they will share the league title with the Pride. If the Pride win, they will clinch sole possession of the CCAL crown. 

Last year, the crosstown rivals shared the honor after Turlock defeated the Pride in the highly anticipated regular season finale. As Turlock head coach Mike Contreras said after that event, “It almost always comes down to Turlock and Pitman.”

Indeed, for more than a decade, the league championship has been won by either the Pride, the Bulldogs or has ended in a tie. In each instance that one of the teams have won outright, the other has been the runner-up.

With such high stakes, Pitman assistant coach Matthew Vasconcellos is expecting a packed house.

“What better than to watch two prestigious successful programs in our district, which is Turlock wrestling, Pitman wrestling? Just because we're the crosstown rivals with these guys, no one's going to want to give an inch,” he said last week.

The Bulldogs will have their hands full in their attempts to win a third-straight title, though, as there are seven Pitman wrestlers who have earned top 15 rankings in their respective weight classes in the state of California. They are Baya Austin (#1 - Girls 130 pounds), Lily Dizon (#2 - Girls 100 pounds), Gabby Austin (#8 - Girls 125 pounds), Mason Ontiveros (#2 - 175 pounds), Brodie Johnson (#9 - 157 pounds), Carter Vannest (#11 - 190 pounds) and Troy Ceja (#13 - 285 pounds).

But if you think the Bulldogs will just roll over and wave the white flag, then you’ve never met Contreras.

“We will put our best possible lineup on the mat, just like we always do. Our team has been working hard and are ready to compete. We believe in them and they believe in themselves. Our goal is to win every time we step on the mat,” he said.

Turlock will be led by 215-pounder Elijah Watson, who carries a state ranking of his own as he is #15 in his division according to They will also rely on 136-pounder Jeremiah Bertalotto to put up some points. Bertalotto, the12th ranked wrestler in his class in the Sac-Joaquin Section according to The California Wrestler, is back competing after missing the first month of the wrestling season to recover from a grueling football season.

Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcelos also knows very well to not underestimate their rivals, predicting tonight to deliver “the most exciting dual of the year.”

“I think it’s going to be real exciting with a lot of good matches,” he added.