Red faces, scorched lungs and live action anxiety was evident on all three mats during Oakdale’s Friday night spirited home scrimmage against Pitman High.
Oakdale’s wrestlers, a week out from hosting the 38th Annual James Riddle tournament on Dec. 14, worked out the early-season kinks in preparation for a winter break run of tournaments that get more daunting with each successive week.
“Everybody is looking forward to the Riddle to kickoff,” head coach Steve Strange said. “Hopefully we get a lot of fan support because the guys have been training really hard in anticipation of the season; we’re ready.”
During the scrimmage against the Pride, one the stronger teams in the area, Frankie Trent toughed out a win against one of Pitman’s top returners and has impressed the coaches with his effort.
“Frankie came out from football and gave a hard two weeks of practice,” Strange said. “He set the standard and didn’t take a day off and that’s carried over to other football players joining our team.”
This year’s Riddle features over 20 teams, including mountain area high schools Calaveras, Summerville and Bret Harte, Jesuit from Sacramento, Miramonte from the Central Coast Section, Hughson, Dos Palos, Tokay, Lodi, Modesto Christian, Hilmar, Bear River and Central California Conference teams Enochs and Grace Davis.
State-ranked Max Stevens, rested his legs after a busy junior season at tailback, sat out the scrimmage but was in the corner of fellow football players Wyatt Hjelm and Christian Johnson’s first matches on the season. Hjelm, a physical presence at 6-3, showed good aggression and intensity in his two matches after a two-year layoff from the sport and was not afraid to mix it up with Pitman’s powerful upper weights.
“Both kids have taken advantage of football’s weight training program,” Strange said. “With their size and length, the sky is the limit if those guys really put in the effort.”
Johnson, a starting defensive back on Oakdale’s football team, pinned his two opponents despite early match shakiness, eventually stuck both of his opponents and showed potential to have impact seasons on the Mustangs young roster if their conditioning can catch up to the rest of the roster during winter break practices.
“It was a good chance to get in six minutes of live action but nobody’s in wrestling shape yet,” Strange said. “You need real matches to be in real shape, but we were impressed by how much Hjelm and Johnson developed physically in their year away from the mat.”
Oakdale lightweights Nico Colunga and Logan Eaton handled their opponents and Trevor Williams, wrestling up a weight and facing Pitman’s top talents, stepped up under the lights again to win both matches. Freshman 152-pounder Abel Garcia tied Pitman standout Logan Wolfley, Hunter Burford, Miguel Ibarra, Cedric Vierra had solid outings and were singled out by the coaching staff for their performances in the scrimmage.
Sophomore 138-pounder Justin Jacobson, a 2012 Masters qualifier, had four matches and despite looking shaky in the first round pinned two opponents from the heart of Pitman’s lineup while his older brother Joey, a senior who was in and out of last year’s lineup, was aggressive in his bouts and looks to have a strong Riddle after placing third last year.
Following the Riddle, Oakdale travels to the Los Banos Invitational, a tournament it dominated last year, before getting to the truth of its schedule with the Sierra Nevada Classic on Dec. 27 and 28, Doc Buchanan on Jan. 3 and 4, Temecula Valley on Jan. 17 and 18 and the Tim Brown Invitational in Sacramento on Jan. 24 and 25.