Maybe you are slapping your bare arms and legs like they stole your headgear or maybe your headphones are blasting Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” while your teammates assume its Metallica.
One thing is certain — if you are a high school wrestler, you are preparing for your next match with great gusto.
The California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships are just a month and six days away as of Wednesday, Jan. 23. Most prep grapplers have only a handful of dual meets to prepare for the grueling and pressure-laden weekends that are the prep postseason.
If local wrestlers lose two matches at the wrong time, the closest they will come to a state medal is that oval shaped ringworm they hide under a knee pad.
Sixteen high schools in the area reside under the canopy umbrella that is Morris Multimedia. Six of them reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Team Dual tournament a year ago while 14 of them (Turlock Christian and Ripon Christian don’t have wrestling programs) combined to send 16 wrestlers to the state meet.
Not much has changed.
Locals were thick in the action of highly competitive brackets on Jan. 18 and 19 as most Morris schools sent wrestlers to either the Tim Brown Memorial Tournament in Sacramento, the Temecula Valley Battle for the Belt or the Mid Cals Tourney in Gilroy.
Between those results, recent duals and an interesting collection of local match-ups at Escalon’s Lloyd C. Engel tourney the week prior, Morris teams have no shortage of storylines to pursue as they eyeball the nearing postseason.
Let’s dig in.
Takedown of the Week-Turlock High
Seventy-two teams gathered at Mid Cals in one of several tough tournament across the state last weekend. None of those teams had luck surpassing a deep and talented Turlock team that won a team championship, snared seven medals and sent five Bulldogs to the tourney title match (Isaac Bertalotto was first at 134 pounds).
Reversal of the Week-Tyler Lawrence (Escalon)
In just two weeks, Escalon junior Tyler Lawrence has beaten or placed higher than three wrestlers listed higher than him on the California Wrestling Newsletter state rankings. The 132-pound sensation (ranked 22nd) finished above Folsom’s Josh Lazaro (16th) and Ponderosa’s Jimmy Scarr (13th) at the Engel tournament, then upset Wyatt Wyckoff of Paradise (ranked 17th) before landing second at the Tim Brown.
Escape of the Week-Hondo Arpoika (Oakdale)
A high seed into the prestigious Temecula Valley Invite put plenty of pressure on Oakdale senior Hondo Arpoika, but the grappler who led his team to a state football bowl game came through with three big wins in the consolation bracket to hold up his No. 5 seed with the same placing. Arpoika won a 3-2 match to ensure a top-six finish and snared a 3-1 win in the fifth-place match. He was Oakdale’s top placer.
Fall of the Week-Juan Garza (Oakdale)
A fall is typically a good thing on the prep mat. It’s not the case for Oakdale lightweight Juan Garza, who will soon fall from state and section rankings after electing to depart the OHS wrestling team a year removed from a SJS Masters title. With Garza out of the picture, Ceres standout Gabe Balderas (ranked 11th) becomes an early favorite to snare a section title if Modesto freshmen Israel Saavedra (ranked 2nd) stays up at 120.
Tourney Tough-Cody Simerly (Weston Ranch)
With a tough field of 220-pound grapplers vying for top honors, Cody Simerly of Weston Ranch needed strong finishes in each of his four victories to snare an eighth place medal in a tough bracket at the Tim Brown. Simerly was the only Manteca Unified School District Wrestler to place (Sierra and East Union were also present). Simerly lost 2-1 and 3-1 decisions Noah Shelgren of Calaveras, who is ranked seventh in the section.
Dual-icious-Central Valley and Ceres
It’s going to be a dandy of a dual to potentially decide the second and final seed from the Western Athletic Conference into the SJS team dual tourney. On Jan. 30 Central Valley (3-1) will host crosstown Ceres (3-1) for a shot at gaining an edge on a postseason appearance. Ceres made the trip last year, but Central Valley won nine matches to oust Pacheco 51-27 and should sport a full lineup.
Weight Watchers-Uppers and Downers
Escalon’s Johnathon Costa (now 160 pounds), Oakdale’s Tyler Malone (152), Turlock’s Jason Valdovinos (113) and Rafael Herrera (126) are four of the most notable wrestlers who recently dropped to contend with smaller wrestlers in weights that should well-suit their frames. Ripon’s returning state place winner, Trevor Smith, moved up to 195 pounds, where a bad match and injured ankle forced him to settle for fourth at the Tim Brown.
It wouldn’t be wrestling season if a relatively unknown wrestler didn’t make a stunning late season push. Manteca’s Vincent Bordi rode a late rally to the state title match in 2006. The Lathrop High assistant coach has a similar, though much smaller talent in 106-pound Alex Garcia. Other wrestlers to watch for this postseason are Oakdale’s Max Stevens (honorable mention on the section rankings) and East Union’s Peter Barrington. Barrington is an honorable mention as well, but won three straight matches before elimination at the Tim Brown and may just win a Valley Oak League title this year.
Ike Dodson is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News. To reach him call 847-3021 or email email@example.com.