There were as many state-ranked wrestlers as there were weight classes on Thursday in a hugely anticipated dual meet between Oakdale High and Bakersfield in Driller territory.
Bakersfield, ranked No. 1 in the state by The California Wrestling Newsletter, topped Oakdale (ranked No. 3) in a thrilling 29-24 battle in front of a raucous packed gymnasium.
Oakdale had a slight edge going into the final match, but surrendered six team points when heavyweight Tyler Daley was pinned in the first varsity match of his career.
The two teams split seven victories apiece, and all but one Oakdale win were three-point decisions while Bakersfield collected two pins (six points) and a technical fall (five). Oakdale did get six points via a forfeit win.
“That was easily the most exciting dual that I have ever been a part of,” Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. “That place was packed — and they had cheerleaders and music — and it was loud.”
Juan Garza got the night started for Oakdale with a 7-0 rout of Arik Onsurez at 103 pounds. Ian Nickell, who beat Oakdale’s Garrett Fortado in last year’s seventh/eighth place mach at the state meet, repeated the performance with a 2-0 win over Fortado in the following weight. Nickell is ranked No. 6 and Fortado No. 9 on the current 112-pound state rankings.
Ronnie Stevens made it a 6-3 team score with a late escape and 4-3 win over Bryce Martin at 119. State ranked (No. 10) Micah Cruz added a 7-2 win over Oakdale’s Tyler Noon, before Tanner Fuerstein (state honorable mention) could upend A.J. Fierro with a strong final two rounds and 6-2 decision at 130 pounds.
No. 3 ranked Natrelle Deminson landed the first fall of the night with a pin over Oakdale’s Tyler Malone. The loss was avenged a match later when Shane Tate landed a last-second takedown in overtime at the edge of the mat to defeat Maxx Ramirez. Tate is undefeated and ranked second in the state while Ramirez is ranked No. 8.
State No. 1 and returning CIF champion, David Ferry, suffered his second loss of the season in a tight match with No. 6 ranked Tim Box. The Bakersfield senior tossed Ferry to his back momentarily with a savvy turn of his hips and landed one more takedown in a 4-2 contest.
Dustin Harris continued his torrid preseason tear with an 8-7 win over Darrel Pope, which actually was only an exhibition match with Harris getting credit for a forfeit win. Mustang Trent Noon (state No. 4) suffered a late letdown and 6-3 loss to Adam Ferro (state No. 5) at 160 pounds.
Miko Arpoika produced a valiant effort at 171 to avoid being pinned by returning state champ Bryce Hammond, who took a 15-point lead and technical fall.
The last battle of two state-ranked wrestlers swung Oakdale’s way at 189 pounds when A.C. Brown (state No. 7) upended Silas Nacita (state No. 8) in a thrilling 2-1 decision.
Oakdale took a lead with one match to go after a fantastic effort from Kyle Cupit at 215 pounds. Cupit whipped Cameron Gage to his back on multiple occasions and even had a seemingly obvious pin at the end of round No. 2, but the call never came. Cupit still won the match 11-6, and the three extra points wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but the Oakdale coaching staff was frustrated nonetheless with a lack of a fall call.
“That was really blatantly bad,” coach Stevens said. “That guy basically gave up, and was flat on his back, and I think Bakersfield was a little embarrassed that it wasn’t called a pin.”
Oakdale’s heavyweight, Daley, looked sharp in his first ever varsity dual, but couldn’t take advantage of an early takedown and good position on Bakersfield’s Adrian Silva. Daley was pinned after a Silva head-and-arm throw left room for a crowd-igniting pin tow in the match.
“The Bakersfield people were really cool and the fans got into it to give the dual a great atmosphere,” Stevens said. “A lot of people came up to us and said it was the best dual they had ever been to.
“We wanted to win, but regardless of the outcome it was a great dual.”
Oakdale is scheduled to be at East Union for a three-way dual with the Lancers and Sierra today, Jan. 5. The Mustangs will then take on one of the toughest tournaments in country, the Doc Buchanan, on Friday and Saturday at Clovis High. The tourney will feature each of the top four teams in the state in Bakersfield, Selma, Oakdale and Clovis.