While league matchups won’t get underway until the new year, local wrestlers are already honing their skills at various regional tournaments. Turlock High is once again looking to earn a league title and send as many athletes as possible to Master’s and then State. Down the way at Hilmar High, the Yellowjackets are light on athletes but hoping to put in the work to rebuilding its program.
Coach: Mike Contreras, 19th season
Key losses: Jack Parrot (220), Ashton Patterson (heavyweight) Anthony Campa (113).
Key returners: Jeremiah Bertalotto (132) Logan Ladd (152), Ethan Ward (113).
Outlook: Turlock High has a rich wrestling tradition, dating back to the days of coach Ed Jalli, regarded as the Father of Wresting in the Central Valley. And the 2022-23 Bulldogs are expected to once again be in the hunt for the Central California Athletic League title.
“We have a league that’s not super tough in wrestling,” said Bulldogs coach Mike Contreras. “It usually comes down to Turlock and Pitman and I imagine this year is not going to be much different.
“Winning league is always the goal,” said Contreras. “Then, obviously, we want to send as many as we can to the state tournament. Hopefully, we can get a top 20 finish. That’d be a good season for us. We were in the top five at Master’s last year and we were missing three wrestlers.”
Isaiah Bertalotto (134) missed weight for last year’s divisional round and Dominic Luna (145) missed divisionals with illness, and Jack Parrot (220), since graduated, was hospitalized with a high fever during the divisionals. At full strength, the Bulldogs’ story might have been different.
Returning this year are state qualifiers Ethan Ward (113), Jeremiah Bertalotto (132) and Logan Ladd (152). Ward and Bertalotto each placed third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament, while Ladd finished sixth.
“They have the highest potential to get into finals,” said Contreras. “Those kids are all right there. We have a good core. It’s all about staying healthy and doing everything the right way.”
Coach: Justin Nash fourth year.
Key losses: Noble Santos (126), Broc Perry (145)
Key returners: Cody Bray, Jr. (195), Ezra Dueñas, Sr. (152); Ian Kohen, Soph. (126), Ryan Couchman, Soph. (145).
Outlook: The Yellowjackets enter the 2022-23 season in a rebuilding mode. At this point in the season, they are without wrestlers in five weight categories: 106, 132, 160, 170 and heavyweight. That puts Hilmar behind the eight ball in every dual meet.
“Hilmar hasn’t had a fourth program in four or five years,” said coach Justin Nash. “I’m trying to get people in the community to focus on the youth program and increase the popularity of the sport among the K-8 students.
Nash’s first goal on the mat is to focus on the Trans-Valley League season. He has high hopes for senior Ezra Dueñas (152) and junior Cody Bray (195).
“They have a good foundation to make it happen,” said Nash. “It’s really a matter of preparation and mindset. I would love to see them as league champions.”