Saturday’s Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section Team Dual Wrestling Championships came down to a pair of Trans-Valley League foes when Hilmar and Escalon High squared off and, in the end, the Yellowjackets came out on top over the Cougars, 36-27, to win their second straight title.
“I was impressed with the amount of listening, absorbing the talks, the practice, mental and conditioning and then translating to the mat,” said Hilmar head coach Justin Nash.
Hilmar wrestling not only won back-to-back section titles, they also won three of the last four SJS team dual titles.
The All-TVL final was the first time Hilmar had faced a league foe in the section team dual finals since beating Ripon High in the D-V final back in the 2016-2017 season when they won, 40-32.
This year’s journey to the banner was a bit different.
No. 1 Hilmar kicked off with a first-round bye then squared off against El Dorado in the second round and came out on top, 44-28, to earn a spot in the final.
“We were very dominant in the entire match against ED,” said Nash.
Against Escalon, the Cougars challenged the Yellowjackets.
In the final, things kicked off at 120 pounds where Ezra Duenas came out and won via fall.
Eventually it would come down to the final two matches, but first, things needed to be settled in other weight classes.
As they went back and forth with matches, Johnathen Mendoza (145) won his match via fall and David Silva (182) came out on top via decision.
“We were tied a couple of different times and they took the lead once, since we started at 120 and we won a match and they won a match,” said Nash.
Efrain Duenas (195) who had been wrestling at 220 all year, moved down a weight class, and it didn’t derail him as he won his match via fall.
Mark LaBass (220) of Hilmar moved up and won via fall despite weighing upwards of 195 officially come match time.
Finally, the last two matches were set, and it was Emmett Carter (113) and Noble Santos (106) who won their matches. Santos won his match via pin and Carter won a decision.
“They caught up and took the lead and we caught up and took the championship,” said Nash. “The journey I have taken in life has been difficult and rewarding, from deep sea diving, from being a dad at home and a coach in the wrestling room and what I have learned has brought these lessons to light and for me to use and help these young athletes, doesn't matter the amount of time or experience they had on the mat. Having the entire teaching staff reach out to me over the blue banner or after a rivalry match with Escalon, it is special, the entire community just reaching out like that is unique.”
The Yellowjackets also completed a perfect regular season and are the TVL Dual Champions.
The Trans-Valley League tournament will take place from Hilmar High with the first round starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.