Section division competition was held last weekend at Gregori and five other venues.

Oakdale, Vacaville prepare for another battle at Section Masters Wrestling

Ron Agostini

Vacaville High is the resident beast of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Championships.

The Bulldogs, the defending champions, have won the Masters team title nine times over the last 12 years. The only two schools to interrupt their dynasty were Del Oro in 2015 and 2016, and Oakdale in 2011.

Oakdale, which has knocked on Vacaville’s door many times over the years, thinks it has a chance Friday and Saturday at San Joaquin Delta in Stockton.

“We match up well with Vacaville in a bunch of weights and also with Del Oro,” Oakdale coach Steve Strange said Monday. “Pitman is also good and they’re strong in a couple of areas where we’re not as strong. We welcome the challenge.”

It is a familiar challenge for Oakdale, which is ranked ninth in the state by The California Wrestler. Since 2007, the Mustangs have placed no lower than seventh at Masters and own two-runner-up finishes besides their 2011 title.

Last year, Vacaville finished with 215 points, followed by Oakdale with 199 and Del Oro with 176.5. Those three again collide, with Pitman added as a contender.

“I do know that Vacaville comes ready for the Masters every year. They’re doing something right up there,” Strange said.  “Vacaville is deep.”

Sure enough, the Bulldogs will send 14 wrestlers to Masters while Oakdale and Del Oro each qualified 12.  The top six in each weight class will advance to California’s premier wrestling event, the CIF Championships on Feb. 21-23 at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.

The state meet, for the first time, will be coed. The girls and boys will compete in separate divisions at Rabobank in what becomes a three-day meet.

Here’s a look at last weekend’s section divisional meets that qualified their top placers to Masters:

Girls South Regional

Pitman freshman Lilly Freitas, 25-0 to date, showed why she’s one of the area’s most exciting prospects at Central Valley.

Freitas pinned all four opponents in the first round for the 145-pound title. The most shocking development was that she was seeded third.

“We knew she would still win,” said Central Valley coach Rob Beckhart, the meet director. “There were older girls who had done well in big meets in previous years. That was the criteria used.”

Freitas has won 23 of her 25 matches by fall, and the other two were a tech and a major decision.

More than 200 wrestlers took part in the South Regional, and the top eight in each weight class advanced to Section Girls Masters on Friday and Saturday at Lincoln High in Stockton.

Other champions included Turlock junior Hailey Ward (103), Gregori sophomore Amelia Velasquez 108, Escalon senior Mikayla Vega (113), Lincoln senior Elysia Urrea at 118 (she was the state 106-pound champion last year), Escalon junior Julia Casillas (123), Ripon freshman Katelyn Cardoza (133), Oakdale junior Faalia Martinez (139), Central Valley senior Brianna Quiroz (152), Sierra junior Alexa Garcia (162), Gregori senior Liliana Vergara (172), Oakdale junior Valerie Osborn (191) and Pacheco senior Tagivale Vaifale (237).

Buhach Colony’s Laura Gonzalez (191) tied Osborn 8-8 via a near-fall in the final seconds, but Osborn’s takedown in overtime won it. Vergara swept through the 172s via three pins. Quiroz pleased the home fans with four wins by fall to dominate the 152.

Tokay captured team honors with 158.5 points over runner-up Atwater with 139. Ripon was third with 132.

Boys Division 2

Gregori welcomed arguably the section’s toughest divisional. It featured 70 wrestlers who were ranked in the section, eight more than the D-3.

Perennial power Vacaville seized the team title thanks to seven champions, but Central California Athletic League champion Pitman placed second and wasn’t far behind Vacaville with five winners: Izzy Tubera (113), SammySilveria (145), Kendall LaRosa (160), Talwinder Malhi (182) and Jaron Azevedo (195).

Tubera edged Turlock’s William Giron 3-2 in the 113-pound final as the postseason matchup of state top-10 ranked wrestlers continued. Malhi, a sophomore, scored an upset win at 182.

Turlock senior Michael Jeffus, the state’s No. 3-ranked heavyweight, rolled to four wins, all by fall.

Adrian Heras, Jeffus’ teammate at 126, also captured all four of his matches by pin. The Bulldogs placed third in the team standings. The top eight in each class qualified for Masters.

Boys Division 3

Oakdale, the run-away D-3 team champion at Atwater, used the meet as a Masters warmup. Nine Mustangs took home first-place awards: Brayden Abell (106), Michael Torres (113), Clayton Bashor (120), Ceaser Garza (126), Henry Porter (132), Ricky Torres (138), Seth Borba (145), Gabe Martinez (170) and Cody Golding (195).

Abell, a sophomore, is ranked first in the section and third in the state 106.  Porter, also a sophomore and a 2018 state finalist, is ranked second in the section and fourth in the state at 132. He defeated Patterson senior Noah Mirelez, ranked second in the section, 10-7 in the 132 final. The Porter-Mirelez rivalry is noteworthy. Mirelez owns a win over Porter at the CIT at Morro Bay.

Martinez, a senior and also a state finalist last year, is No. 1 in the section and eighth in California.

Also winning at Atwater were El Capitan pair Shane Carl (152) and Evan Myrtue (160). The top eight in each class will extend their season at Masters.

Boys Division 4

Beyer celebrated its first wrestling blue banner, a sugar-sweet victory that illustrated its season-long improvement.

The Patriots placed second behind Western Athletic Conference dual-meet champion Grace Davis but rebounded by winning the WAC Championships. Beyer reached the semifinals of the Section Team Duals but was beaten by seven points by eventual champion Casa Roble.

That brought the Patriots to their trip last weekend to Casa Roble for the D-4s in Orangevale. The symmetry was perfect. The Patriots, anchored by weight-class champions Adam Bettencourt (126) and cousins Jose Estrada (145) and Raul Garcia (195), totaled 221 points to runner-up Casa Roble with 179.5.

All points are important in the team standings, and Beyer pinned 10 of 12 opponents in the opening round. Six Patriots, including 2018 medalists Estrada and Christian Her, qualified for Masters.

“It started snowballing for us during team duals,” Beyer coach Doug Severe said. “We are really stoked by our first blue banner. It all kind of fell into place for us.”

Also winning titles were Pacheco junior twins Jose (132) and Dionico Navarro (138), Ceres’ Argel Arroyo (220) and Gabriel Mendoza of Los Banos (182). Arroyo, a senior, has wrestled for only two years.

The top four advanced to Masters. Among those were Grace Davis freshman Aiden Wilder (106), Beyer sophomore  Jack Lawrence (132), Beyer freshman Haden Carmack (152), Grace Davis senior Dustin Haitt (170) and Johansen senior Isaac Brionez  (182).

Boys Division 5

Hilmar and D-5 host Calaveras each annexed three champions, but the Yellowjackets’ three runners-up carried them over the Redskins for the meet team title. The Yellowjackets scored 261 points, 17.5 points more than Calaveras.

Hilmar featured title winners Broc Perry (113), Wyatt Carter(126) and football star Justin Rentfro (220). Rentfro, top-ranked in the section, won all three matches by fall.

Calaveras, which captured a blue banner at the Section TeamDuals two weeks ago, was led by champions Donivan Giangregorio (182), Elliot Houghten (195) and heavyweight Austin Shoemaker. Houghten is ranked first in the section.

Summerville’s Brennan Dibble (120), Escalon pair Alex Jimenez (132) and Bradley Hagglund (160), Josh Grabowski of Big Valley Christian (145), Patrick Garcia of Modesto Christian (152) and Kodiak Stephens of Bret Harte (170)  also won titles.

Escalon placed third behind Hilmar and Calaveras. The top four in each weight class qualified for Masters.