History was made on Saturday by the Hilmar High wrestling program at the Sac-Joaquin Section Team Dual Wrestling Championships at Lincoln High in Stockton.
The Yellowjackets overthrew their Trans-Valley League foes, Ripon High, in an All-TVL Division-V final that ended with an exciting 40-32 Hilmar win to earn the program’s first blue banner.
“The kids were excited and as coaches we were real happy. We wished it happened Wednesday but we will take the blue banner any day and Wednesday we saw it behind us,” said Hilmar head coach Steve Vieira. “We ended on the better end.”
Hilmar was coming off a 48-27 loss to Ripon in the TVL regular season dual finale on Wednesday.
“We still had a little bit of a bad taste from Wednesday night and we did hope for a second chance,” said Vieira. “We got right back to work on Thursday and some guys were moping around and I told them, 'we can feel sorry for ourselves or we can work and refocus,' which we did.”
The 'Jackets began Saturday with a 69-3 win over Marysville, after the team lost just one match.
Hilmar then moved on to the semifinal where they defeated a tough Calaveras team 40-32.
“They are an Escalon-type team with a good roster and it came down to the last couple matches,” said Vieira. “Coming down to the end we pulled that out and it set us up with Ripon again in the finals.”
The intensity grew between the two teams before the match even started.
Despite ending the regular season at 4-1 in the TVL and Ripon perfect at 5-0, all was thrown out the window in the Section final.
Hilmar had been pinned six times by Ripon in Wednesday's 48-27 loss, but the team responded in more than one way as they won by a nine-point swing from Wednesday.
“That is huge and you tack on a 12-point swing at 145 and 220 and it makes things better, lost half but ended on better end,” said Vieira.
Out of the 14 matches, Hilmar won six including two via forfeit.
“That helped tremendously,” said Vieira of the forfeit wins at 132 and 182.
Those two forfeit wins came from Cody Rentfro (182) and Dylan Gomes (132).
Hilmar also had three wrestlers rally after losing on Wednesday to earn the wins on Saturday, which proved to be pivotal.
Steven Silva (106), Mark LaBass (145) and Jared Collier (220) each captured critical victories for the 'Jackets in the final.
Justin Rentfro (170) won 7-0 while Anthony Aguida (120) won via pin, but it was Gaven Azevedo (115) and his 21-11 victory that clinched the title for Hilmar.
“I told the kids back in November that I thought we could put a competitive lineup to be in hunt for league and some of the guys looked at me like I was crazy,” said Vieira. “Those same guys told me they were wrong but it was something we talked about. We have a great group of kids.
“It added having some of the guys who were back from last year,” he added. “It took everybody, and that is what happened in the weekend. We beat some of the best teams in our division and we did what we could and I think by Friday they seemed good to go.”
Next for Hilmar will be the TVL tournament which will take place 9 a.m. Saturday at Ripon High.
“We set that goal and accomplished it and everything is up for grabs, it’s what we make it,” Vieira added. “Still in mix for league title this weekend so we will try and get every point we can, realistically, we will share it or win it if Escalon goes up, so that is our main focus now, if we do that, we might send everyone to Divisionals.”