It was a dual match to remember Wednesday night when Pitman High traveled to face off against Golden Valley High in the Central California Conference season opener. The Pride and Cougars entered 2014 as two of the top contenders in the CCC, making Wednesday’s dual a matchup of potential champions — and the two teams competed accordingly.
After jumping out to 26-13 lead, Pitman watched as the Cougars rode a trio of wins into the lead position. With one match left the score read 28-26 in the home team’s favor. Luckily for Pitman, however, its final wrestler was Lorenzo Lewis who stepped up to the occasion and helped the Pride secure a narrow and thrilling 29-28 victory.
“He’s the type of kid where he can wrestle in a small tournament and lose, but when there’s something big on the line he always rises to the occasion,” head coach Adam Vasconcellos said of the sophomore Lewis. “When the lights are brightest he wrestles the best.
“It’s really exciting because they’re a really good wrestling team. It’s good for the kids to get the payoff,” Vasconcellos added.
Lewis, who finished 8th in Masters last year as a freshman, clinched the team victory by defeating Golden Valley’s Jacob Perry in the 133-pound division via a 5-2 decision. Though the final match between Lewis and Perry proved to be the most climatic and crowd-pleasing, Pitman’s one-point victory may have actually been decided in the night’s first match where Haydon Mattox recorded the sole pin of the night over Cougar Joey Terry.
“He was wrestling a really good kid. You do things on paper and add up points ahead of time and we didn’t have that match marked down as a potential pin, so it was huge,” Vasconcellos said of Mattox’s win by pin.
Mattox, who is 16-1 for the year, recorded his 14th pin of the season with a cradle in the second period, which earned his team a valuable six points in a dual where bonus points were hard to come by.
“He’s a pinner,” Vasconcellos said of Mattox.
In addition to the Pride’s bookend victories, performances from Eric Berjeran, Nick Valadez, Cristian Clemeti, and Logan Wolfley were instrumental in edging out the Cougars.
“It’s very rare that you see two teams keep each other under 30 points. Every match was a battle; every point was huge because nobody was giving anything up,” Vasconcellos said. “How we won some of the matches was a surprise, but not the fact that we won.”
Now, with the defeat of the touted Golden Valley, Pitman finds itself alongside rival Turlock High in the hunt for the CCC title. Not surprisingly, Pitman’s grapplers are already eying their February matchup with the Bulldogs.
“It’s hard to keep the kids focus away from Turlock because we’re cross town rivals and there’s already been some talking. Our coaches do a good job of reminding them, though, so right now we got to take care of Atwater,” Vasconcellos said. “As much as we want to look forward to Turlock, we can’t overlook any team. Merced’s going to be nasty, too.”
The Pride will host its first home dual meet of the season against Atwater High on Wednesday. While the Falcons might not match up as well as Golden Valley, Vasconcellos is keen on keeping his kids’ competitive level up as to not lose its momentum.
“Our kids are hungry and they really want to win,” Vasconcellos said.