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Pride takes Jim Root Classic for second year in a row
Nick Valdez earns individual championship
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Pitman High claimed its second consecutive team championship at the Jim Root Classic on Saturday, besting a field of 41 teams with 228 points.

After wining last year’s tournament by the slightest of margins — a mere six points — the Pride earned the team win at the 51st Jim Root Classic much more handedly as they finished with 34 points between them and second place Kimberly High of Wisconsin. In all, nine Pitman wrestlers finished in the top eight of their respective weight classes with Nick Valadez emerging as the lone individual champion in the 138-pound division.

“It was good, but we only ended up with one champion, so the kids were a little disappointed,” head coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “We wanted to win, but our core group of guys wanted tournament championships.”

In addition to Valadez’ first place finish, Pitman ended the tournament with five second place finishers — Hayden Mattos, Gilbert Valadez, Logan Wolfley, Jagjit Johal, and Eric Berjeran — a third place finisher in Christian Clementi, a fourth place finisher in Trevor Mattox, and a sixth place finisher in Quentin Hernandez.

Two of the Pride’s second placers, Hayden Mattox and Gilbert Valadez, barely missed out on championships as they fell short in sudden victory during their finals matches.

As for Pitman’s champion, Nick Valadez, he made his way into first place with a pair of pins and a decision before besting Kenny Vandall of McQueen High, 7-2, in the championship round.

“The kid he beat in the finals was a really good kid,” Vasconcellos said. “He beat some higher ranked kids.”

Pitman’s success on Saturday and its wrestlers’ dissatisfaction with it are indicative of the expectations the Pride have this season. With a roster of seasoned grapplers and a few talented newcomers, Vasconcellos and his staff are looking at 2014 to be the year Pitman earns its first Central California Conference championship.

“It’s tough right now because we’re in the middle part of the season where guys are beaten up. I just keep reminding them of our goals,” Vasconcellos said. “We had never beaten Golden Valley in a dual, and we’ve never won a league championship. So we’re focused in on that and this Wednesday.”

Wednesday brings the Pride’s third league dual meet of the season against Merced High on the road. Currently sitting at 2-0, a win over the Bears would undoubtedly set up a showdown of rivals on Jan. 29 between Pitman and Turlock High to determine this year’s CCC champs.

“This is the hardest working group of kids I’ve ever been around. I think we have as good a chance as any. These kids have earned it,” Vasconcellos said.