OAKDALE – Brayden Abell needed a swig of water before he could talk. Something about a cut inside his lip.
Wrestlers, even on the best days, always pay a certain price for what happens on the mat. Abell, an Oakdale High junior, is one of the state’s best in his weight class.
Regardless, he didn’t walk away from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Championship unscathed Saturday.
When he was asked if he enjoyed his sport’s relentless grind, Abell grinned and said, “Yes, and sometimes no.”
Abell, much like his teammates, overwhelmed the competition at the D-3 meet. The Mustangs rolled to six weight-class titles en route to another blue banner.
Abell, ranked seventh in the state at 115, pinned his semifinal opponent in an eye-blink six seconds, then decisioned Jesse Cota of Patterson 8-1 for his third divisional title.
“I’ve wrestled him (Cota) before,” Abell said. “He is strong but I had to keep moving and get away from his strengths and use my speed.”
Abell, who earned a fourth-place medal at the CIF State Championship last year, is hard to beat when he’s healthy. But that’s been an issue. He was sidelined for long stretches due to hip and shoulder injuries.
He says he’s good, however, going into the season’s two-week climax – the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters next week at Stockton Arena, followed by the state meet at Bakersfield. Abell placed third at Masters in 2019.
“He (Abell) is ready to go,” Oakdale coach Steve Strange said. “He’s wrestled for a long time. He has good experience.”
Oakdale has dominated the D-3 field – a collection of four conferences including the Valley Oak League and the Central California Conference – for many years. Abell was joined in the winners’ circle by Michael Torres (108), freshman Jonathan Hernandez (122), Clayton Bashor (128), Ceasar Garza (147) and Seth Borba (154).
The top eight in each bracket advanced to Masters but, for many, a good seed next week carried extra importance. That meant collecting as many wins as possible.
“This weekend is all about Masters,” Strange said. “The team goal is going to Masters.”
Oakdale totaled 249 points, far ahead of runner-up Vista del Lago. Golden Valley, the CCC champion, placed third and was anchored by 140-pound champion Willie Ward-Williams.
Ward-Williams, a senior, scored a reversal and pin in quick order to dispatch Ryan Alvarado of Vista in the final.
Central Valley sophomore Ruben Valenzuela topped the bracket at 184, thanks to his win via first-round fall over James Mintmier of Oakmont.
SJS Division III Championship
At Oakdale High
Team – 1. Oakdale 249. 2. Vista del Lago 211 ½. 3. Ponderosa 209. 4. Golden Valley 133. 5. Oakmont 131. 6. Del Campo 92 ½. 7. El Capitan 92.8. Patterson 88 ½. 9. Atwater 79 ½. 10. Lincoln 73. 11. Central Valley 72. 12. Merced 61. 13. Rio Linda 56. 14. Placer 48. 15. Kimball 46.
108 – Michael Torres, Oakdale, p. Abram Granados, Merced,:37.
115 – Brayden Abell, Oakdale, d. Jesse Cota, Patterson, 8-1.
122 – Jonathan Hernandez, Oakdale, p. Ethan Cota, Vista del Lago, 5:26.
128 – Clayton Bashor, Oakdale, tech Danny Myles, Oakmont, 17-1.
134 – Lucas Olivas, Vista del Lago, d. Chase Mirelez, Patterson, 9-5.
140 – Willie Ward-Williams, Golden Valley, p. Ryan Alvarado,Vista del Lago.
147 – Ceasar Garza, Oakdale, d. Joe Luna, East Union, inj.-default.
154 -- Seth Borba, Oakdale, d. Shane Hoffman, Del Campo, 7-1.
162 – Erik Johnson, Vista del Lago, d. Jake Lewallen, Ponderosa, 5-2.
172 – Sean Myles, Oakmont, d. Jake Griffiths, Ponderosa, 6-3.
184 – Ruben Valenzuela, Central Valley, p. James Mintmier, Oakmont, 1:10.
197 – Dylan Humbird, Ponderosa, p. Anakin Highsmith, RioLinda, 3:30.
222 – Shaelor Ladd, Ponderosa, d. Kenneth Dentley, Del Campo, 9-5.
287 – Lucas Cook, Lincoln, p. Manny Zavala, Sierra, 3:20.