Late February and early March is crunch time for high school wrestlers. After months of hard work in wrestling rooms, wrestlers either see their labor rewarded with divisional, sectional, and state success or they see the flame of their season extinguished. It’s the defining high stakes nature of a sport that requires a high degree of dedication.
But high school wrestlers aren’t the only ones attempting to reap the fruits of their labor around this time of year, youth wrestlers are in the same boat.
Last weekend, a dozen wrestlers from the Turlock Youth Wrestling Club saw their hard work pay off at the San Joaquin Wrestling Association Championships, which were held at Delhi High, by medaling in the tournament and earning a first place team finish in the Bantam division, a third place team finish in the Intermediate division, and a second place team finish in the Novice division.
“They work hard,” Coach Lucas Solarez said of his team. “For six, seven, and eight year olds, they’re basically running a varsity practice.”
The Turlock team walked away from Delhi with four individual champions— Bantam wrestlers Isiah Bertalotto (55) and Eli Watson (65), Intermediate wrestler Ethan Ward (50), and Novice wrestler William Giron (75).
Turlock’s other wrestlers— Jeremiah Bertalotto (60), Jeremiah More (75) and Tanner Brazil of the Bantam division, Oscar Alfaro (85) of the Intermediate division, and Steven Silva (80), Isaiah Ontiberos (85), Julian Rosales (90), and Tyler Stout (120) of the Novice division—each placed second in their respective weight classes.
For some, like Giron, Sunday’s championship win was a long time in the making as he dispatched a long-standing thorn in his side, Carson Brim of Nor-Cal Wrestling, en route to his win. For others, like Watson and the Bertalotto brothers, success at the SJWA Championships was a highlight for their first year on the mat.
“He’s been working his butt off. If there’s a tournament he can go to, he’s in it,” Solarez said of Giron.
“And for Eli, it was a good confidence booster for him. He was on cloud nine,” Solarez added about Watson.
But just like their high school counterparts, the season is far from over for Turlock Youth wrestlers. The schedule continues this Sunday at the State of California Wrestling Alliance for the Youth Championships and will be followed by the Kids State Tournament on March 23 and the Reno Worlds Tournament on April 12.
“It’s just something they look forward to all year,” Solarez said of the upcoming Kids State and Reno Worlds tournaments. “Our team’s more of a family. We take care of each other and have fun.”