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Opponents come together on the mat for match night
Wrestling Night2
Pitman alumni Gilbert Valadez and Turlock alumni Brandon Egleston compete against each other in the Turlock High wrestling room at Wednesdays match night. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR/The Journal

Bonding and helping voluntarily are not activities that are typically associated with athletic opponents, but for Valley wrestlers it has become a summer time tradition. Though they face off against each other through league and into the postseason, Central California Conference wrestlers — and those from surrounding leagues — have been coming together to help each other stay sharp on the mat for weekly match nights, the last of which was held on Wednesday at Turlock High.

“It’s a way to interact with other kids and give kids some match time out of season,” Turlock head coach Anthony Gonzalez said. “When these kids go on the national team or make the All Star team, their teammates are kids from other schools. They’re at a three-day tournament with these guys and they find out that they’re all doing the same things, they’re just from different schools.”

Acting as part of USA Wrestling/SJAA, Bulldogs and wrestlers from Los Banos, Merced, Golden Valley, Central Catholic, Buhach Colony and other programs have met for the past five weeks to engage in active competition and make the switch from Freestyle and Greco back to Folkstyle.

“The kids get a little more serious when they wrestle with another team than they usually go full-go with their teammates,” Gonzalez said.

What makes these match nights truly special, however, is the inclusion of alumni from various schools. Whether they wrestled five years ago or just recently graduated, former wrestlers have made a habit of coming to these match nights to not only keep their love for the sport alive but to also teach those who have followed in their footsteps.

“You get these veterans to come back and wrestle around. When it’s high school vs high school they’re not going to give each other advice on how to take each other down, so when you get alumni back they will at least talk to them and tell them what to do,” Gonzalez said.

Though the weekly wrestling nights have ended for the summer, Gonzalez and the Turlock Wrestling Club will still be holding open gym sessions where wrestlers from any program are welcome.

“We’re all there to try and make each other better,” Gonzalez.