Wrestling season is back, and for the seven-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion Oakdale Mustangs the expectations are high. Saturday, Dec. 12 Oakdale welcomed 24 teams to town as the Mustangs hosted the 40th James Riddle tournament.
Several of Oakdale’s big names from last year have graduated and to the outside view of some, left Oakdale with more questions than answers. After the final bout on Saturday night, Oakdale answered those questions with six champions, seven finals qualifiers and a convincing first place team finish, scoring a total of 231 points. Buhach Colony and Turlock tied for second with 167 points apiece.
Freshman Dustin Chavez (106) put in a dominant four match performance that was capped off with a 5-0 decision over Bear River’s Noah Dariell. Chavez made quick work of his first two matches by pinning his opponents in the first period.
“It’s pretty exciting. This is my first tournament at the high school level. It’s very difficult to win four matches in one day, very exhausting,” Chavez said after winning his first place medal.
Junior Jake Abeyta’s (120) road to the finals began with a quick pin over Maia Dua within 20 seconds of the first period. Much like his first match, Abeyta ended his second match of the day via pin fall in the first period. The well-rested Abeyta was tested in the semi-finals as he held off Buhach Colony’s Brandon Mendoza for a 4-3 win. His final match of the tourney came against State qualifier Ivan Gomez from Waterford. Abeyta walked away with a first place medal after his 6-1 victory.
Cody Williams also earned a first place medal after defeating Cole Jackson of Lincoln and John Mendoza of River City in the first two rounds. In the semi-finals, Williams scored a first period pin fall over Patterson’s Noah Mirelez. Williams claimed his second straight Riddle Championship after a convincing 11-3 win over Lodi’s Crawford Dylan in the finals.
Like Dustin Chavez, fellow freshman Ricky Torres (132) showed that he belonged with the big boys, as he also took a first place medal. In his second match of the day, Torres displayed both heart and dedication when the youngster overcame a late third period 2-0 deficit to Angel Hernandez of Golden Valley. Torres took the lead with a reversal and followed up with a late takedown to advance with a 3-2 win.
“I just have to outwork this guy, I have to push myself. I put in the hard work and needed to finish strong,” Torres said of his mindset when down 2-0 with approximately two minutes to go. “It means a lot that the coaches have belief in me. I just want to make them proud.”
Much like his brother Cody, senior Trevor Williams (138) also battled his way to a first place finish. Three of his four match wins came via pin, and in the semi-finals, Williams put away Turlock’s Brady Egleston 13-1. Williams is a three time state qualifier and is looking to take the extra leap into bringing home that much desired state championship.
Bronson Harmon (152) started his finals journey off strong with three pins, including a pair of first period wins. Harmon’s night was capped off by what many claimed to be the “Match of the Day” when Harmon clashed with Central Catholic’s Christian Dominguez. Down 3-1 in the second period, Harmon tied it up at three moments before the start of the third period. Once again, Harmon found himself in a hole down 4-3 late in the third. Harmon’s reversal tied it up sending the match to a fourth period. For the first time in the match, Harmon took a one point lead after an escape. Clinging to a 5-4 lead with just seconds left in the match, Harmon was taken down, giving Dominguez a 6-5 lead just before time had expired.
“It’s very important just to be in the finals, it’s the first tournament of the season and I need to get off to a good start. Last year I fell short in the Masters (0-2) so this year I just want to get back to Masters, and that means working hard and doing my best throughout the season,” Harmon said.
Oakdale’s final medalist came when junior Abel Garcia (195) took first place. Last season Garcia placed fourth in the CIF State championships. Garcia drew a first round bye, and followed up with a trio of convincing victories.
The wrestlers return to the mat on Saturday, Dec. 19 when the varsity boys head to Casa Robles High School for the Marty Manges Invite. Oakdale’s junior varsity will also be in action Saturday at Lodi for the Lodi Junior Varsity Shootout. Both tournaments are set for 9 a.m.