Oakdale's Carlos Garcia (170) celebrates his win over Mason Ontiveros at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament. (Samantha Schmidt)

Masters Wrestling: Pitman girls, Oakdale boys take different paths to win breakthrough team titles

Ron Agostini

STOCKTON – The Pitman High girls did it with a foursome. The Oakdale boys did it with strength in numbers.

They took different routes to the same result – Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling team champions.

There’s more than one way to excel on the mat, as these two talented teams demonstrated Friday and Saturday at Stockton Arena. For Oakdale, it was its first Masters title since 2011 but it also was the long-awaited breakthrough in the decorated 21-year coaching career of Steve Strange.

The former two-time state champion succeeded Brian Stevens in 2012 and, since then, knocked on the door at Masters with five runner-up finishes. On Saturday, the Mustangs blew down that door by totaling 273.5 points, far ahead of runner-up Vacaville, the team Oakdale smoked to win Section Team Duals.

“It was a team effort. It’s a good solid group,” Strange said. “Two of my coaches were on that 2011 team. They called themselves the ‘dream team,’ but we scored more points today than they did.”

Carlos Garcia of Oakdale flies up off the mat as his flips Pitman's Mason Ontiveros and takes the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters title in the 170lb weight class. (Samantha Schmidt)

 Strange heaped praise on Masters champions Eziequel Vela (120), Carlos Garcia (170) and Elias Corona (195). But Oakdale also featured top-to-bottom power with five finishers in the top four. The Mustangs dodged the graduation loss of 2022 state champion Ceasar Garzia (Michigan State) and also overcame a season-ending knee injury last month to standout Jonathan Hernandez.

“We had a few seniors who stepped up this year,” said Garcia, a junior who also won Masters last year. “Everyone uplifted each other.”

Then there were the Pitman girls, all four of them. Simply, they were elite. Seniors Lilly Avalos (121) and Alana Ontiveros (137) accrued the maximum points with pure dominance, while freshman Baya Austin (126) made it a trio of champions. Gabbryella Austin (131), one year older than her sister, narrowly lost in the final 6-5 to Taydem Khamjoi of Chavez.

The ref hoists Alana Ontiveros' arm into the air after sub 30 second victory over Bella Vista's Gianna DiBenedetto. The Pitman senior will compete for Menlo College next year. (Samantha Schmidt)

Pitman picked up 112 points to squeeze by Del Oro with 105.5. Ontiveros’ headlock pin Saturday in only 27 seconds over Gianna DiBenedetto of Bella Vista proved decisive. The Pitman quartet reminded wrestling observers of Enochs’ “Fab 4” who won the state title in 2016.

“Not a lot of numbers, just horsepower,” Pitman coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “That’s what it takes when you’re short five or six girls.”

Avalos, a two-time Masters champion and a state runner-up last year, needed only 3:14 in elapsed time to pin four opponents at Masters. She’s ranked No. 1 in the state, one of the many reasons why she is called the “Little Beast” in the Pitman room.

“It (a state title) is everything to me. It’s going to dictate everything for me,” said Avalos, who will wrestle next year for Vanguard University in Orange County. “It (the expectations) are very stressful, but I have a support group in my team and my family.”

Pitman's Lilly Avalos (121), right, grapples with Isabelle Camariillo of Laguna Creek during their championship match at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament. (Samantha Schmidt)

The top six finishers in each Masters weight class qualified for the CIF State Championships next week at Bakersfield.  All of them walked proudly onto the mats in the “Parade of Champions” which preceded  the meet-ending championship, third-place and fifth-place matches.

This year also marked the third time the Masters was held as a coed event under the same roof. More than a few admirable performances played out during the two-day program.

Mikayla Lancaster (150) became the second Gregori girl to reach the top at Masters. A Masters runner-up a year ago – she placed fourth at the state meet in 2022 – Lancaster pinned Avangeline Turner of Davis in 4:40 for the title. Lancaster was familiar with the first Jaguar wrestler to win in Stockton: Liliana Vergara in 2019.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” Lancaster said. “Extra work outside of practice made the difference.”

Other Masters champions included Isaiah Bertalotto of Turlock (138), Los Banos brothers Brokton Borelli (152) and Larry Borelli (160), Cynthia Meza of Calaveras (106) and Najeh Russo of Buhach Colony (160).

Other runner-up finishes were recorded by Jazmine Turner of Grace Davis (101), freshman Aleena Ngyuen of Central Catholic (106), Brianna Espinoza of Central Valley (235), Micah Viloria of West (120), freshman Victor-Alexander Gutierrez of Central Catholic (126), Colton Silva of Oakdale (145), freshman Mason Ontiveros of Pitman (170), Scott Beedles of Calaveras (182) and Achilles Clarke of Pitman (220).

For complete results, visit cifsjs.org.

In the 106 weight class, Calaveras' Cythnia Meza  and Central Catholic's Aleena Ngyuen fight for control. (Samantha Schmidt)