The wrestling mat has never smelled so good.
Soon-to-be Oakdale High senior Ronnie Stevens made his triumphant return to the Mustang mats on June 29 as the wrestling program hosted teams from Buchanan to Stockton in a packed summer dual tournament inside the Oakdale gym.
For Stevens, it was his first action at home since a devastating injury destroyed bones in his wrist and jeopardized his career last summer. The tough break left Stevens sidelined for his entire junior season, a year after he had qualified for the California Interscholastic State Championship Tournament as a sophomore.
The takedown specialist with terrific late-match endurance and son of longtime wrestling coach Brian Stevens was ecstatic to see his home gymnasium alive with action he could finally take part in.
“It was the first time in a year and a half that I have wrestled at home, and it was pretty exciting,” the younger Stevens admitted on Monday. “It feels good getting back; it’s been such a long time that I have really missed it.”
The matches were short and unofficial, but Stevens still lived up to the reputation he left behind with repeated scores against a talented Buchanan opponent he bested in the tourney’s opening moments.
The grips, movements and steady changes in stance and elevation were all made possible by a vigorous rehabilitation schedule that now includes wrestling a few times a day, running every day and regularly lifting weights.
And it’s not just Stevens that’s making the most of his summer.
The entire Mustang wrestling program has stayed busy with a barrage of offseason events. The team tackled the Frosh/Soph/Jr. State of California Wrestling Alliance for the Youth (SCWAY) State Tourney in Lemoore, battled opponents at SCWAY tournaments and even participated in the America’s Cup in Clovis and the Reno Worlds.
And it’s been much more than participation. The team left the Santiago High Team Camp from June 14 to 17 with a perfect 12-0 record in dual matches. Oakdale saw big success at the Clovis Summer Duals on June 22 and 23 despite the challenge of facing some of the best young athletes in the state with eight to nine matches per wrestler. Nico Colunga, Logan Eaton and Tyler Noon all competed well enough in USA Wrestling Regional action earlier this year to qualify for the Freestyle Nationals in Fargo. Future action also includes enrollment in the prestigious Team Camp at the University of Nebraska, where the SCWAY Midwest team will see 12 to 15 dual matches over four days. Stevens, his brother Max and incoming freshman Jake Ryan will see action with this team, which also makes a trip to the Grand River Rumble in Michigan on July 21 and 22 for nine to 12 matches against the nation’s best.
The elite action is competition outside of Oakdale’s busy schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday circuit training at Oakdale Fitness Plus and heavy weightlifting and wrestling at OHS on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“Our goal is for our kids to get 50-plus matches over the summer,” Coach Stevens said.