There was a mutual understanding between Turlock and Pitman High that Thursday’s Central California Conference dual meet would be determined by the team who secured the most bonus points. Coaches and wrestlers on both sides expected a hard-fought and close contest and for more than half of the dual meet, they were right.
More than just in-town bragging rights, an opportunity to become CCC champions was at stake on Thursday. The Pride had already defeated top-tier Golden Valley High and the Bulldogs were the only major challenge left. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, had yet to face an elite league opponent. Pitman was their first real obstacle and they would have to win to keep their title hopes alive.
The stage was set and the mood in Pitman’s gym reflected the tension. Turlock and Pitman kicked off the night by trading victories via pin as Brady Egleston and Hayden Mattox picked up ever-important bonus points for their respective teams. The neck-and-neck trend continued through the weight classes, but after seven matches the tide shifted. The Pride went on a six-match tear to end the night and earned a 46-21 team victory.
“Our boys wanted this, they’ve put in the work, it’s all they’ve been thinking about all year, so I knew they were going to come out here and perform,” Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “We sealed the dual title tonight. It feels great, we’ve been so close so many years.”
Turlock did well in the lower weight classes, winning three of the night’s first seven matches, but the heavier weight classes proved to be its Achilles heel.
“That inexperience thing came back to haunt us. We have a lot of guys who are not that experienced in the upper weights and it showed tonight,” Turlock head coach Mike Contreras said.
“We have some tough upper weight kids,” Vasconcellos said. “They’re big tough kids—they want to wrestle, they want to win. When you can have your hammers as your upper weights, that’s gold.”
After a Logan Wolfley (162) major decision victory over Turlock’s Chris Silva, a Pitman forfeit made the score 22-21. That’s when Kuda Gwasira (172) got the ball rolling with a second period pin which was followed by a Jagjit Johal (197) decision victory, a Nick Roditis (222) decision victory, and an Eric Bejeran (HWY) first period pin before Trevor Mattox (108) capped it all off with a second period pin of his own.
“Our kids finally hung together this year, put it together, stayed healthy, and came out and got what they worked for,” Vasconcellos said.
But while the Pride sealed their victory in the latter stages of the dual, two overtime victories by Lorenzo Lewis (128) and Cristian Clementi (147) proved to be huge factors in the final outcome.
“The kids battled. If those matches go the other way it’s a lot closer,” Vasconcellos said.
Other factors in Pitman’s big win also included notable absences on Turlock’s part, particular Isaac Bertalotto who was again sidelined due to a persisting knee injury.
“It’s not in the cards for him right now. He’s due for an MRI and we’ll know the results soon, but it’s not looking good right now,” Contreras said. “We were at a disadvantage not having three starters, but you know what, even if we have those three starters it’s not saying we would win because they still beat us by 20-something points. Give credit to Pitman, they did a good job.”
Pitman finished the night with five pins and a major decision for a total of 34 bonus points.
In addition to earning the team victory over their rivals, the Pride also shared a milestone with senior leader Wofley who, with his major decision win, maintained a perfect home dual record. If he wins his match next week in the Buhach Colony High dual, he will be undefeated all-time in CCC duals.
“It’s kind of crazy. I remember him coming in as a freshman, it feels like yesterday,” Vasconcellos said. “To come into a high school career and never lose a single CCC dual meet match is unheard of, it’s crazy. It shows you how valuable he is to this program and this team.”
The Pride will compete in their final dual next week against the Thunder where a win will all but secure their first ever CCC championship.
As for the Bulldogs, they face the Cougars next week on the road in a must-win dual before the CCC League Tournament.
“We still have a chance because if we beat Golden Valley we can still do good in the tournament, but it’s not going to be easy, especially with Isaac being injured,” Contreras said.