For a handful of Oakdale varsity Mustang wrestlers, the dream of becoming a CIF State Meet qualifier became a reality this weekend. Oakdale sent eight wrestlers to the Stockton Arena for the 2016 Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship for two days of high school wrestling action, and out of the hundreds of the section’s most talented, by the end of the day on Saturday, Feb. 27 the elite from the section punched their tickets to next weekend’s State Championship in Bakersfield.
Representing the Mustangs will be: Dustin Chavez (106 pounds), Jake Abeyta (113), Ricky Torres (126), Trevor Williams (132) and Bronson Harmon (152), all qualifying for the State Meet. Others who made the trip to Stockton Arena were Cody Williams (120), Gabe Martinez (138), Cody Golding (160) and Matt Kjeldgaard (Heavyweight). Unfortunately for those four athletes, their wrestling seasons ended this weekend short of qualifying. Oakdale’s field of State qualifiers includes two freshmen in Chavez and Torres, a sophomore in Harmon, a junior in Abeyta and a senior in Williams.
Sophomore Harmon set his sights on a state meet berth early in the tournament and did not let up. The sophomore went a perfect 5-0 over the weekend and earned the title “Masters Champion” in the 152-pound bracket. Harmon defeated Noah Blake of Del Oro in the semi-finals 7-6 in a dramatic overtime thriller.
“He (Blake) is a great competitor. I have wrestled him before; I had such devastating losses to him before. Today was pure determination by me,” Harmon said following the semi-finals victory.
His determination showed in another thrilling finals victory over Folsom’s Jeff Skyrud. In the match, Harmon opened up with a 7-3 advantage heading into the final two minutes of the bout. He extended his lead to 9-4 after a takedown with 1:37 remaining. Harmon put away Skyrud with an escape with 28 seconds remaining in the match to cement his 11-7 finals victory.
“First of all I want to thank God. I wanted to go out there and prove a point. I have been underestimated my whole life, I wanted to show them I am here and I am out to win the whole thing,” Harmon said. “My strategy for next weekend is same as always, go out and dominate. In the finals match tonight, Jeff (Skyrud) is my friend, he is a great competitor, but when I step on the mat, friendship goes out the window.”
Senior Williams, who is ranked seventh in the state, makes a return to the big dance next week. Williams battled his way to the finals where he faced Lawrence Saenz of Vacaville. Saenz entered the tournament ranked fourth in the state and the two performers captivated the arena audience. Williams and Saenz wrestled through a scoreless first period, but Williams scored the first point of the match late in the second period to take a 1-0 advantage into the final period. Williams was down 3-1 with 1:27 remaining in the bout when Saenz was called for a stall, rewarding Williams with a point to make it 3-2. Williams and Saenz rumbled until the time expired resulting in Williams coming up short in the match. A second place finish, however, makes this Williams’ fourth State meet appearance.
Oakdale’s young grapplers made a name for themselves this winter. Torres battled his way to a second place finish at Masters as he dominated to reach the finals. He earned two of his four victories via pin falls, including his semi-finals victory against Alejandro Lanza of Benicia in the second period.
“To be a State finalist is kind of hard to explain right now. I guess it really has not sunk in yet,” Torres said following his semi-finals victory.
The freshman, who is ranked 11th in the state, faced the number one ranked Devan Turner of Dixon. Torres battled with the experienced senior to the third period. Torres fell behind 8-0 to enter the final period and then was pinned with 58 seconds left.
Oakdale’s other freshman phenom Chavez impressed the arena with his third place finish. Chavez went 5-1 in the two day tournament to secure his spot at the state meet. The freshman entered the day as the 13th ranked grappler at 103 pounds in the state. Chavez fell to the eventual champion Matt Hruby of Vacaville in a 5-2 decision. Chavez responded with a pair of victories in the consolation bracket.
Abeyta punched his ticket to state with a fifth place finish. Abeyta started the tournament off with a quick 2-0 run but fell to runner-up Brandon Mendoza in the quarterfinals. This will be Abeyta’s first appearance at state meet.
Wrestling begins Friday, March 4 at 9 a.m. at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.