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Arpoika, Colunga Place At Temecula Valley
1-23 OAK Wrestling1
Hondo Arpoika, shown here during a dual win this season, landed Oakdales best medal at the Temecula Valley Battle for the Belt. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE LEADER

Some of the best high school wrestling teams in the country again converged on California for one of the toughest tournaments of the year on Jan. 18 and 19 at the Temecula Valley Battle for the Belt.

Oakdale High’s wrestling team struggled in pivotal matches before the medal rounds, placing just two into the top-eight but finishing a solid 11th as a team.

“It was tough, super tough — and we knew it would be,” Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. “Our matches to get in for placing were super difficult.”

Oakdale’s top place winner was 195-pound Hondo Arpoika, who went 5-2 across both days. He edged Poway’s Liam Sorahan in the consolation quarterfinals before falling 5-2 to No. 2 seed Josh Alpha of highly touted Bethlehem Catholic (Pennsylvania).

Arpoika won his next match 3-1 over Dylan Bollinger of Sultana, a wrestler ranked 37th in the state by the California Wrestling Newsletter. Arpoika is just an honorable mention on the state rankings. The win granted Arpoika his fifth-place medal.

Oakdale’s only other placer was 106-pound Nico Colunga, who won three straight matches to reach the championship semifinals, but lost his next three matches to settle for sixth.

Trevor Williams (2-2), Ronnie Stevens (3-2), Max Stevens (2-2), Jake Jacobson (4-2), Tyler Noon (3-2), Tyler Malone (3-2), Frankie Trent (3-2), Zack Fallentine (1-2) and Eric Barragan (1-2) also made the trek to Temecula. Ronnie Stevens, Jacobson, Noon and Malone were all eliminated one win short of a medal.

Oakdale was without 113-pound returning Masters champion, Juan Garza, who elected to leave the program after participation in three tournaments early this year. Williams, a freshman, has stepped up in his absence and will likely wrestle 113 (like he did at TV) at the end of the year.

Oakdale has a tough task with host Gilroy in a nonleague dual on Friday. Gilroy placed wrestlers at 113, 120, 126, 138, 145, 160 and 220 during their host Mid Cals tournament on Jan 18 and 19. Gilroy is ranked ninth in the state while Oakdale is listed at No. 18. Oakdale won last year’s dual with a huge 27-26 upset. Gilroy was ranked fourth in the state at the time while Oakdale was 25th.

“It should be fun because obviously Gilroy is a top-tier team with a lot of big superstars,” coach Stevens said. “It’s kind of our last time to hit the road before the postseason.”