More than 700 wrestlers from 36 high schools flooded Pitman High on Saturday to compete in the 11th annual Rumble in the Jungle. For many, the tournament served as a tune-up for the fast approaching post-season, a chance for top-ranked wrestlers to square off against each other and get a feel for the elevated levels of competition they will soon face.
Five local schools — Pitman, Turlock, Hilmar, Delhi and Denair High — took part in the 11-mat tournament and experience varying degrees of success at both the team and individual levels. Host school Pitman finished second overall as a team behind first place Oakdale High while Turlock finished 8th, Delhi and Hilmar tied for 19th and Denair finished 29th.
“Oakdale is a good program. Steve and I used to coach at Central Catholic for five or six years, so it’s always fun to see our teams battle head-to-head,” Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “I think we wrestled well. To take second when missing five or six varsity guys is good.”
Individually, only Pitman and Delhi fielded champions with Angel Velasquez (126) earning gold for the Pride and Jesse Flores (HVY) earning gold for the Hawks.
“We entered the tournament so we could get more matches for some kids and some better quality matches,” Delhi head coach Ray Cedres said. “He’s basically going off of pure talent right now because we haven’t had many matches for him.”
“Angel wrestled awesome. He wrestled outstanding and pushed the pace the entire time,” Vasconcellos said.
Despite earning only one first-place finish, Pitman did manage to land a total of nine wrestlers in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Isaiah Perez (113) and Adam Velasquez (126) both finished second while brothers Nick Valadez (138) and Gilbert Valadez (152) both finished third. Lorenzo Lewis (138) placed fourth, Jamie Villegas (HVY) placed sixth and Aurthur Clemens (145) and Anthony Carbojoi (220) both placed eighth.
Adam Velasquez, like his brother Angel, competed for the first time all season Saturday — the pair were forced to sit out while the Sac-Joaquin Section reviewed their eligibility— and may have placed first if sickness hadn’t forced him to forfeit his finals match.
As for Perez, the Pride freshman narrowly missed out on gold with his 4-6 decision loss to Oakdale’s Logan Eaton in the finals.
“Something has just clicked for him this year. He’s confident, he’s physical, he’s tough, he hustles and he just gets after it,” Vasconcellos said of Perez. “He took Logan Eatan right to the brink, and Logan is ranked number on in our section. So it’s a pretty exciting thing for our freshman to push a senior like that.”
Delhi’s sophomore Flores also beat some stiff competition en route to his first-place finish as he pinned Matt Kjeldgaard of Oakdale in the quarterfinals, won a 5-0 decision over Rafael Magana of Turlock in the semifinals and edged out Elijah Juvera of Modesto Christian High 3-1 in the finals — all despite having wrestling only five matches prior to Saturday.
“We keep him busy in practice, so his cardio wasn’t a problem,” Cedres said. “I thought he might have some trouble with being rusty on the mat, but he proved me wrong.”
Turlock’s Magana (HVY) finished third after his loss to Flores, joining teammate Brady Egleston (126), who also placed third, as Saturday’s most successful Bulldogs. The pair joined five other Turlock wrestlers in the top eight with Fabian Gaona (132) finishing fifth, Andres Orozco (152) finishing 6th and the trio of Uriel Villasenor (160), Chris Silva (170) and Isaac Peres (195) all placing eighth.
Hilmar and Denair also placed top-eight individually with Yellowjacket Cody Rentfro (170) placing third and Coyote Kyle Perkins (220) placing fifth.
Now, all five local schools will return to league competition with one final dual each before their respective league tournaments.
The biggest of the upcoming duals will undoubtedly be between Pitman and Turlock as the Pride look to go undefeated in the Central California Conference with a win over their rivals. The dual will be held at Turlock and is set to take place on Wednesday.
“They’ve got tough kids,” Vasconcellos said of Turlock. “When they’re better than us our guys wrestle up, and when we’re better than them their guys are going wrestle up. I know it’s going to be close, it’s going to be a good dual meet, and everybody in town will be there. It’s going to be exciting.”