It was the final dual meet of the season Wednesday night and fans from both Turlock and Pitman High sat in the stands of Turlock’s girls gym, giddy with anticipation and ready to watch the cross-town rivals compete on the mat. For a few Bulldog seniors it would be their last chance to wrestle in front of a home crowd—but some never got the chance.
In a rare set of circumstances, the Pride had only eight wrestlers scheduled to compete, leaving six empty slots. Turlock benefited from the six forfeits—which essentially guaranteed a victory—but its coaches and fans were left with more to be desired as some of their best wrestlers were forced to be spectators. Pitman won six of the night’s eight matches but it was the Bulldogs who claimed the team victory and their second consecutive Central California Conference Championship with a 45-27 final.
“It’s frustrating. It’s our last dual meet and we have all our fans here,” Turlock’s head coach Mike Contreras said. “But if you forfeit six matches to Turlock you’re not going to win very many times.”
“They won six on us, but we’re the champions. We’ll take that any day,” he added.
Pitman’s cast was dwindled due to a combination of injury and illness, with many of the inactive wrestlers having also sat out during last week’s Rumble in the Jungle. But even though the crowd didn’t get the full show they expected, the matches they did watch were very close and entertaining.
Pitman’s Logan Wolfley, Hayden Mattox, and Eric Ruezga each notched pins but the Pride’s most exciting victory belonged to Gilbert Valadez who took on Turlock’s Ricco McCombs. The two wrestlers engaged in a back and forth grappling match. Valadez wound up with the upper hand in the final seconds, however, and pulled out an 8-7 win.
“I thought our boys definitely wrestled well; they rose up to the occasion,” Pitman’s head coach Adam Vasconcellos said.
“Their guys that did wrestle wrestled very well,” Contreras said.
But the dual’s most exciting match belonged to Turlock in the night’s final showdown between Rafael Herrera and Pitman’s Nick Valadez. Down 1-4 headed into the third period, Herrera was forced to fight his way back from the bottom. After a much needed escape, Herrera scored a late takedown and proceeded to pin Valadez with only four seconds on the scoreboard. His comeback victory spurred Turlock’s fans, and bench, to erupt with applause.
“It was a big boost for the coaches and our team,” Contreras said.
The Pride’s loss places them in third place behind Golden Valley High and Turlock.
With their win, the Bulldogs qualified for today’s Section Team Duals at Lincoln High.
“They’re excited. It’s always fun to compete there,” Contreras said.
Turlock and Pitman will meet again on Feb. 7 at the CCC League Tournament which will be held at Pitman.
“We have the dual part down, now all we need is the league tournament and I’m anxious to get that,” Contreras said. “I believe strongly in our kids; they’ve worked very, very hard. I see us definitely having a dominating performance in the league tournament.”
“I expect to win the league tournament and be outright champions. That’s our goal and that’s what we expect,” he added.