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Yellowjacket wrestling tops Cougars after dramatic conclusion
Harden wins final match to secure 'Jackets victory 35-30
Cody Rentfro (182) of Hilmar was able to get a third period pin over his Escalon opponent in Wednesday's 35-30 victory. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Clay Harden (285) pinned his opponent and raised both of his fists in the air and yelled with excitement as his Hilmar bench all stood and cheered their teammate as he secured the Yellowjackets 35-30 thrilling victory over Escalon on Wednesday night from Sparks Gym.

“They always have a solid lineup and you can always expect that from them. Escalon does a good job,” said Hilmar head coach Steve Vieira of facing the Trans-Valley League foe. “Escalon has had my number for a while be it at Hughson or here at Hilmar, who finally got one back.”

It was a win that nearly escaped from Hilmar down the stretch. Luckily, they went up early with four straight victories, including two via pin which led to a 19-0 lead. Hilmar dropped six straight matches, including losses from Wyatt Amaral (152) and Justin Rentfro (170).

“I thought we came out in the first four and knew we had them a bit outmatched but in the middle it was tough and we knew we might be outmatched but even some of those guys wrestled well,” said Vieira. “We kept battling to keep the team points down and it was big.”

Hilmar then found themselves down 24-19, with one of the best wrestlers in the area in Cody Rentfro (182) up for the 'Jackets.

Rentfro powered his way through a third period pin, giving the 'Jackets a 25-24 lead with just three matches remaining. Hilmar forfeited the 195 match and went down 30-25 with just a pair of matches left.

Jared Collier (220) earned a 13-5 victory for Hilmar and cut the lead to 30-29 with one match remaining—Harden.

Finally, Harden met Blue Capps of Escalon in the final match to decide the team winner and it was intense and high paced from the get-go.

Harden shot at Capps right away and with 46 seconds remaining in the first he managed to power down Capps and earn the win via pin as the entire gym erupted with loud screams and cheers.

“Coming down to our heavyweight, they are good kids but we are still not the most experienced there and its nerve wrecking,” said Vieira. “We were worrying about it all but they showed up tonight and pulled it off for us; we went down and lost with some of our big dogs.”

Hilmar won seven matches, including four via pin. Hilmar continues their perfect record of 3-0 in the TVL with two duels left and are tied with Ripon (3-0).

“We chose to wrestle in this old gym,” said Vieira of wrestling in Sparks Gym. “I love it here. Wrestling matches have smaller crowds but this gym seems to bring in a big crowd, everyone gets rowdy and I like it here better than the main gym. We know we can beat them if we wrestle well, but it’s always tight. I think as a whole, great win for us, for the boys and community, everyone.”

Hilmar will travel to Modesto Christian to take on the Crusaders at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.