Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27 and 28 was a pivotal stop for high school wrestlers on their journey to reach the California State Championship. Stockton Arena was host site for the two day wrestle fest, known as the 2015 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet.
The Oakdale Mustangs sent 13 grapplers, and seven of them will be competing at the upcoming State Meet in Bakersfield, all placing in the top six needed for advancement and moving on to battle for a state championship. Out of the 13 Mustangs at Masters, Logan Eaton (113 pounds), Nico Colunga (120), Trevor Williams (126), Max Stevens (132), Colby Harlan (138), Abel Garcia (170) and Frankie Trent (182) all punched their tickets for the upcoming weekend.
Garcia battled his way to the finals after knocking off four other hopefuls before entering the finals match against Vista del Lago senior, Ben Johnson. Garcia led 2-1 after the first period, before opening it up in the final minutes of the third period to score four points in the final 1:08 to win by decision 9-4. With his hand and head held high, Garcia was the last man standing in the brutal 32-man bracket, claiming Oakdale’s lone Masters championship.
“It is everything I worked for this entire season. I feel great, my preparation was on point. To get to this point, you have to be prepared both mentally and physically,” Garcia said. “Next step is State, and I have to focus on that.”
Colunga, who also made it to the finals, was faced with the task of taking on the number two ranked Devan Turner of Dixon. Colunga entered the finals bout winning three of his first four matches via falls. Turner, however, edged Colunga in a hard fought battle to win the match by a 5-4 decision. Although he fell short, Colunga took second place and he will now turn his attention and focus to the state finals as well.
On his way to claiming third place in the 113-pound weight class, Eaton began his journey with three straight victories before falling short to eventual winner of the weight class, Del Oro’s Landon McBride in the semifinals. Eaton bounced back and defeated Pitman’s Isaiah Perez and Lysander Mahilum of Benicia to claim his third place finish.
“He (Mahilum) came out strong, he scored the first points of the match. I just turned it on in the third period and came away the winner. A lot of credit goes toward my teammates. They are all supportive. As a senior, this is very exciting, going to state,” Eaton said. “This is my last shot at it. I’ve seen a lot of seniors fall short and I know that I have to be ready to wrestle next weekend.”
The weekend was not without drama as perhaps one of the most dramatic battles came in the 182-pound weight class third place match between Trent and Bobby Posadas of Granite Bay. Earlier in the day, Trent fell to the eventual champion Roman Romero of McNair. Trent shook off the loss and responded with a 3-1 overtime decision over Amini Kapapa of Armijo. In his final match, Trent fell behind 1-0 after the second period. With 1:34 left, Trent tied it up. With the crowd fully into the match, Trent scored on a reversal with 17 seconds left for a 3-1 lead. However, Posadas tied it up with a reversal of his own with seven seconds left. Trent never stopped battling and with two seconds left on the clock, the Oakdale senior made a quick escape for the 4-3 victory.
Like others have before him, Williams fell to the eventual first place finisher in his weight class. Modesto’s Israel Saavedra put away Williams in the third round of the tournament, but Williams stayed positive and found a way back to the state tournament. In a battle for fifth place, Williams took on Jack Ramalia of Granite Bay. Ramalia led 2-1 heading into the third period. Williams tied it up with an escape with 46 seconds left and put away his opponent after a takedown with nine seconds remaining in the final period to win 4-2.
“He is a tough guy (Ramalia), he is ranked in the top ten in state rankings. I got the ‘W’ and that’s all that really matters,” Williams noted. “I wish I had finished better overall but I am heading back to state, and that’s what matters after this weekend.”
Earning a third place finish overall, Harlan’s roller coaster weekend began with a defeat over Modesto Silvestre of West High School. Harlan then fell in the second round of the tournament after a pin fall loss to Malachi Estep of Rodriguez High School. To keep his state hopes alive, Harlan had to win out the rest of the way, and the OHS freshman did just that, knocking off four straight opponents, to advance to the state finals.
Stevens, a senior, started the tournament off strong by rattling off four straight wins. His run would come to an end when he fell to Angel Velasquez of Pitman 3-0. A determined Stevens shook off that loss and defeated Fernando Lanza of Benicia 5-2. In his battle for third place, Stevens faced Kalani Tonge of Elk Grove. During the high drama match, Stevens scored the first point of the match late in the second period. Tonge tied it up with 1:15 left in the third and the two went to overtime. Unfortunately for Stevens, Tonge ended it with a takedown just 10 seconds into the overtime period.
Although six other Mustangs, Jake Aybeta (106), Bronson Harmon (145), Hunter Burford (160), Miguel Ibarra (195), Wyatt Hjelm (220) and Matt Kjeldgaard (285) failed to qualify for state finals, the Mustangs as a team placed second overall with 167.50 points, only behind Del Oro, which scored 188.50.