By the time A.C. Brown took the mat for Oakdale High’s final match of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Wrestling Championships, it had become obvious how much D-IV fans had grown tired of seeing Mustang limbs lifted into the air via referee on Saturday.
Bleacher warriors at Union Mine High School spent most of the final hour and a half of tournament action booing Oakdale wrestlers (or the calls made in their favor), and cheering for wrestlers who showed any signs of success against Oakdale.
A small group of Oakdale supporters voiced their own assistance, but couldn’t compete with the resonance of boos from nearly every corner of the gymnasium.
But while Oakdale may have lost the fight in the stands, they certainly won it on the mat.
Oakdale grapplers nabbed nine D-IV titles and placed their entire lineup in the top-5, qualifying 14 wrestlers to Friday’s first day of the SJS Masters at the Stockton Arena.
“I’m greedy. So I’m not totally happy without 14 champions, but we had a great tournament,” Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. “Our guys have really picked up the intensity.”
Oakdale’s incredible 303.5 team points was a dramatic landslide over host Union Mine’s second place tally of 137.5 and Los Banos’ 120 points in third place. The one-sided affair may have triggered the emotional responses from onlookers, but was puzzling for Oakdale wrestlers who hadn’t faced such negativity from a ‘cheering section’ all season.
“I don’t know how you can boo a wrestler that you don’t even know,” 145-pound David Ferry said. “We came up here and wrestled hard, and they made it clear they just wanted to hate us. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Ferry won his weight with a 9-4 decision over former teammate Ray Lomas of Central Catholic. The two shared an embrace during their face-off reunion before the finals.
Oakdale also saw tournament titles from Juan Garza (103), Garrett Fortado (112). Ronnie Stevens (119), Tyler Noon (125), Shane Tate (135), Dustin Harris (152), Trent Noon (171) and Brown (215).
Garza saw some early spunk from Manteca’s Charlie Alvitre in the first of five rematches from the Valley Oak League finals the previous week. But unlike last week (a 7-2 decision), Garza turned Alvitre at will and landed a 15-point lead and eventual pin with 48 seconds to go.
Fortado bested Central Catholic’s Devin Kelly handily in a 13-2 score, setting up an exciting match between Ronnie Stevens and Ceres veteran Wes Schweiger at the following weight. The aggressive match turned in Stevens’ favor when Schweiger’s repeated attempts of a ‘Gramby roll’ only left his own back exposed for near-fall counts and a 7-2 Oakdale win.
Tyler Noon rebounded from a second place finish last week with an impressive 5-1 victory over Phoenix Iniguez of Consumnes Oaks to win his bracket.
“It felt good to get that win and be set up better for Masters,” Noon admitted. “After last week I really wanted to be first here.”
Tate unarguably put on the best show of any wrestler to reach the finals. He moved into near-fall positions with Kimball’s Trent Nicholson every few moments to take a 14-0 lead after just one round. Then he took a 19-0 lead before the final near-fall could end in a second round pin.
“I really wanted to go into next week on some big momentum,” Tate said.
Harris gave Oakdale coaches a scare when he allowed a late reversal from Aidan Foster to give the Sierra wrestler a 3-2 lead with just seconds to go. But Harris escaped and landed a two-point takedown with less than one second to go for a stunning 5-3 comeback in the final breaths of the match.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get a takedown in time,” Harris said. “But I had been timing his steps the whole match and I finally capitalized on it at the end.”
Trent Noon surrendered a pair of reversals to Mitchell Woods of Union Mine, but ended the match with Woods on his back in 17-4 fashion in the finals.
At the following weight, Hondo Arpoika’s desperation shots couldn’t nail a takedown, and a late two-point move from Donell Simms awarded the Weston Ranch wrestler a 189-pound title. The D-IV runner-up finish was still quite impressive for the Oakdale sophomore.
Oakdale’s final match of the night was the final VOL rematch of the night, when A.C. Brown bullied Nick Baker of Sierra in a second round pin for the second straight week.
Tanner Feuerstein didn’t get his shot at the finals after running into the state’s top ranked wrestler (Union Mine’s Cody Tow) in the 130-pound semi-finals. Feuerstein dropped that match by just two points, and went on to top Miguel Arroyo of Livingston in the third place match. Tyler Malone also avenged his VOL finals loss to Weston Ranch wrestler Daniel Garcia, and placed fourth.
Oakdale’s two matches for fifth place were two of the most exciting of the tournament, and not just because of their narrow scores. The matches represented a rare moment where winners would finish top five and advance to masters, and losers would see their season end with that match.
Miko Arpoika ensured his ticket to Masters with an overtime takedown to topple Avi Sunga of Los Banos at 160. Kyle Cupit, who placed just fourth at league, grabbed his own piece of the Masters pie by taking down Central Valley’s James Jackson with just three seconds to go for a clutch win at 275. Jackson had beaten Cupit on two prior occasions this season.
Cupit agreed to wrestle 275 this postseason despite a serious weight disadvantage (he scales in at about 205). But being undersized did little to his Division IV determination.
“It feels pretty good to go out there and prove everyone wrong,” Cupit said. “No one expects much from someone so underweight.”
All 14 Mustang wrestlers will enter 32-man brackets in their respective weights for the first of five championship rounds at 9 a.m. on Friday. The seventh, fifth, and third place matches will kick off around 1 p.m. on Saturday and finals at around 3:30 p.m. The top seven Masters placers move on to the state meet on March 4 and 5 in Bakersfield.