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Turlock wins big at Bulldog Classic
Hilmar's Melo takes title; Denair's Mendoza earns fourth place finish
THS wrestling pic1
Turlocks Raphael Herrera fishhooks his first-round opponent, Ernesto Barragan, en route to a 134-pound championship at Saturdays Bulldog Classic. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

Turlock High wrestling has a history of dominating its annual Bulldog Classic tournament, and it was no different on Saturday.

With six mats covering the wood floor of their boys' gymnasium, the Bulldogs welcomed 23 teams for what would be their final tournament before the beginning of Central California Conference competition against Atwater High tonight. Turlock claimed the team title handedly with 202 points as 11 of its 12 wrestlers on the varsity A-team placed in the top eight of their respective weight classes—including three champions in Albino Orozco, Raphael Herrera, and Isaac Bertalotto. Now the Bulldogs feel ready for the Falcons and the rest of the CCC and hold a firm belief that another league title is theirs for the taking.

“I think it was a good stepping stone for us to go right into league. Our league is the toughest in the area, I believe. The kids are feeling good about themselves, so now they need to stay focused and get ready for Wednesday,” head coach Mike Contreras said. “Obviously, placing 11 out of the 12 kids on our A-team shows that we’re coming along.”

Just as Turlock’s team dominance was of little surprise on Saturday, neither was the individual dominance of Orozco, Herrera, and Bertalotto.

Herrera barreled through the 134-pound bracket with a pair of pins and technical falls, which included a pin via cradle over Oak Ridge High’s Christian Portilla in the championship round.

Orozco also recorded a pair of pins on his 172-pound campaign before defeating Gavin Hummel of De La Salle High via a 12-2 decision in the championship round.

As for Bertalotto, he bested his teammates in the pin category with three in a row before claiming the championship round against Central Catholic High’s Christian Dominguez with a decision in the 154-pound bracket.

“It’s a really good feeling. It’s one of those things we’ve been fortunate with at Turlock, we have these kids in the lineup that are solid and this year is no different,” Contreras said of his top three grapplers. “They’re older and they’re hungry and they want a state title.”

Turlock also had plenty of help from the rest of its wrestlers, many of which are either newcomers to the program or to varsity competition.

First-year wrestler and senior Juan Coronado earned second place in the 220-pound division while Dustin Lema, Prince Dhaliwal, Brady Egleston, and Albert Gonzalves placed third in the 108-pound, 115-pound, 122-pound, and heavyweight divisions, respectively.

“We expect them to be winning a lot of these league matches for us,” Contreras said of his supporting cast. “There’s plenty of kids that are stepping up.”

But Turlock wasn’t the only local team of grapplers at the Bulldog Classic as Denair and Hilmar High were also represented.

The Yellowjackets walked away with an individual champion of their own in Antonio Melo, who claimed the 184-pound bracket while Coyote Luis Mendoza earned a fourth place finish in the 222-pound division.