For the second year in a row, Pitman High has won the Central California Conference championship with a perfect 5-0 record in league duals, the most recent of which was earned against rival Turlock High via a score of 38-21 on Wednesday.
Of the 13 matches wrestled, the Pride won all but four — two in triple overtime, one by decision and one by way of injury default.
“The kids have worked hard. We have a lot of kids that put a lot of time into wrestling and just believe in what the coaches are telling them. When you get a bunch of kids to buy in it works out,” Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos said.
With the loss, the Bulldogs finish with a 2-3 record in league duals.
“Besides three or four matches, they all went six minutes. I'm sure they were expecting to stomp on us,” Turlock head coach Anthony Gonzalez said. “The fact that we wrestled every match all the way, even though the kids knew it was going to be tough, there's no disappointment on our end. It actually makes us excited because the majority of these kids are going to be coming back next year.”
Pitman opened the dual with five wins as Trevor Mattox (113), Isiah Perez (120), Adam Velasquez (126), Angel Velasquez (132) and Lorenzo Lewis (140) beat their Bulldog opponents.
Turlock won its first match of the night with a Shawn Souza (147) win in triple overtime before picking up another triple overtime win with Andres Orozco (162) following a Gilbert Valadez (154) win for Pitman.
“Pulling off those wins was huge,” Gonzalez said of the pair of wins in triple overtime. “We knew there wasn't going to be any easy matches. Every kid was going to have a tough match.”
“It's something about wrestling the cross-town team, you know they're going to show up and wrestle well,” Vasconcellos said.
The rivals split the following two matches with Cristian Clementi (172) winning for the Pride and Breck Jeffus (184) winning for the Bulldogs —via injury default —before Turlock won its final match of the night with Chance Holley (195).
“It's exciting to see some of our younger kids step up and wrestle well for us,” Vasconcellos said.
Pitman made its win official with the final two matches that saw Julien Barrera (220) win in double overtime and Jaime Villegas (HVY) win by decision. With the win, Villegas notched a perfect league record.
“Our heavyweight winning was a big win for him and for us as a team, as well. Just because it gives him the number one seed in league, and that's the weight class that we lost the state qualifier last year,” Vasconcellos said.
Though Wednesday proved to be a clear-cut win for Pitman, the night wasn't without controversy, specifically regarding the state-ranked Velasquez brothers. After sitting out for the majority of the season due to eligibility review, the pair were recently cleared to wrestle, making Wednesday their first competition in league all season. Still, despite the Sac-Joaquin Section clearing the two transfers to wrestle, there were still questions being asked.
“It just raises a lot of eyebrows when you see these high profile names moving to a school that's already looking to make an impact at sections anyways,” Gonzalez said. “You question the reason for the move. Are they moving for the school or are they moving to be part of a section champion team?”
“We beat Golden Valley, we beat Buhach, we beat all the teams that beat Turlock without those two kids. We were going to win league with or without those boys, so all the complaining and everything else, it is what it is,” Vasconcellos responded. “We didn't need transfers to win league, we obviously won without them, which is a bittersweet situation because it's not the best thing for the Velasquez brothers. I mean, they didn't get to wrestle a full season when they should have, but it proves that our team was the best team in the league with or without them,”
The Pride will undoubtedly benefit from the Velasquez brothers' talent this weekend, however, as they take on some of the state's best teams at the SJS Team Duals in Stockton.
“We're going to have to wrestle pretty great. Folsom's got a really good team, Elk Grove and Vacaville are always tough,” Vasconcellos said. “I think we're right there. If we can get certain match ups and guys weighing in at certain spots, I think we can steal some matches.”
As for Turlock, its wrestlers will enjoy a week away from competition until the CCC League Tournament on Feb. 12 at Atwater High.
“Our goal right now is to take 14 to Divisionals,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of people are overlooking us because we are young. A lot of people are saying we're in a rebuilding year, and with the way these kids are wrestling, they're not wrestling like that.”