Isaac Bertalotto became the fourth sophomore in Turlock High’s history to claim a medal at the California High School State Finals on Saturday. With a tournament record of 5-3 and an 8th place finish, Bertalotto joined the company of Fabian Garcia, Brandon Egleston, and Lewis Gonzales—his cousin—as the youngest Bulldogs to ever place at the State Tournament.
Bertalotto (132) arrived in Bakersfield as part of a five man group for Turlock but was the only returning state qualifier of the bunch.
“It definitely didn’t hurt. When you’ve been there you’re not really in awe of the tournament,” Turlock head coach Mike Contreras said of Bertalotto’s experience. “He went 3-2 last year and he really wanted to improve on that.”
The Turlock sophomore began his campaign of improvement with a pin over senior Tony Arellano of Northview High in the first round but fell short in his following match against senior Ali Naser of El Camino Real where he lost to the number five ranked wrestler via major decision.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match,” Contreras said.
Rather than get discouraged, Bertalotto used the loss as fuel for his final three matches on Friday. Bertalotto recorded back to back pins over Ethan Dunn of Modoc High and Trent Nicholson of Kimball High before earning a 3-2 decision over Jerry De la Rosa of Serra High.
Bertalotto’s victory over Nicholson proved to be Friday’s highlight as the young Bulldog earned retribution after falling to the Jaguar a week prior in the SJS Masters Tournament.
“It was a mental challenge because I had just lost to him, so beating him was definitely a confidence booster,” Bertalotto said.
“You never know how a kid’s going to react after a loss, but a kid like Isaac— who’s a strong competitor and is tough minded— he wants it. He has that desire and he showed it,” Contreras added. “His toughness came through for him.”
Bertalotto put in another impressive performance against senior Izaiah Ozuna of Frontier High to begin Saturday’s competition. Ozuna, ranked fourth in the ever strong Central Section, gave up a takedown in the first period and an escape in the second period and was unable to overcome Bertalotto’s strength and positioning. Bertalotto secured a medal with the 3-1 victory.
“Any guy from the Central Section is going to be pretty darn tough but he executed the plan perfectly,” Contreras said.
After his hard fought victory, Bertalotto found himself pitted against Naser for a second time and was again beaten via major decision. The following match against Abel Contreras of Porterville High ended with a 9-2 decision over the Bulldog which officially ended Bertalotto’s State run and Turlock’s wrestling season.
Bertalotto finished the year with 20 pins, six technical falls, two major decisions, and a record of 42-9.
“He’s got two more years and I know he’s going to go up,” Contreras said. “He wants to go to the finals; that’s his mindset.”
“It’s a big deal to have my name on the wall now, but hopefully someday I can be a State champion like my cousin,” Bertalotto said.
Turlock’s other State qualifiers—Rafael Herrera (126), Ricardo Garcia (220), Albino Orozco (160), and Rickey Flores (HVY)—experienced mixed results at the two-day tournament.
Herrera finished with a 2-2 tournament record. After pinning Bellarmine High’s Nico Guerrero in the first round, Herrera ran into the eventual State champion, Johnny Parada of San Fernando High, and lost via a 5-0 decision. Herrera was back in the winner’s column with a pin over Sean Brown of Granite Bay in his subsequent match but Alemany High’s Alfredo Orozco proved to be too much and eliminated Herrera with a pin.
“His performance against Parada goes to show you just how close he was to being a medalist and maybe going to the finals,” Contreras said.
Garcia also fell short of his medal hopes with a 2-2 tournament record. After back to back wins over Marcus Ponce of Central High and Miguel Ruiz of Pioneer Valley High, Garcia got his first taste of defeat at the hands of Terra Linda’s Nate Keeve. Garcia seemed to bounce back against Jose Sandoval of Holtville High but a crucial, and contested, stalling call with 40 seconds left in the match resulted in a 2-1 loss and an early exit from the tournament for the Bulldog.
“It’s always upsetting when a referee decides a match,” Contreras said. “I was very disappointed.”
Orozco and Flores both finished with a tournament record of 0-2, a result of tough draws. Orozco ran into Tri-Rivers stalwarts Clovis and Buchanan High and their respective wrestlers, Brody Brand and Yusef Robinson. Orozco lost 7-5 against Brand and 5-4 against Robinson. Garcia also faced a Clovis wrestler, Nick Nevills, who pinned the Bulldog before Jonathan Roa of Lemoore High did the same his second match.
Bertalotto, Herrera, and Orozco will return for Turlock next year.
“We should be pretty solid,” Contreras said. “I’m expecting three state medals next year, at least.”