For six Oakdale Mustangs, the journey continues. A year’s work of weight lifting, making weight, and endless practices in the misty Oakdale wrestling room paid off for half a dozen grapplers. Ricky Torres (132), Jake Ryan (145), Gabe Martinez (152), Bronson Harmon (160), Abel Garcia (170), and Colbey Harlan (182) all qualified for the upcoming CIF California State Championship Meet starting Friday, March 3 at Bakersfield.
These athletes battled their way through the toughest competitors in their respective weight classes and placed in the top three. When the dust settled at the Stockton Arena on Saturday, four of the six stood at top of the podium in first place: Torres, Harmon, Garcia and Harlan not only qualified for the State Meet, but they went undefeated inside the Arena to do so.
The two day Masters Meet wrestle fest began on Friday, Feb. 24 in Stockton with hundreds of wrestling hopefuls trying to earn a top five spot to qualify to continue their season. Sophomore Torres will be making his second state championship appearance following his 5-0 decision victory over Ryley Boutain of Benicia in the finals.
“It’s pretty difficult to go through this tournament. I have a lot more to improve on if I want to place in the state tournament,” Torres said. “But as far as tonight goes, I feel like I accomplished something and it is a crazy feeling to be honest.”
Last year Torres placed eighth in the state tournament.
Harmon will be returning to the state meet after going 5-0 at the Stockton Arena. He advanced to the finals after putting away Will Costanzo of Del Oro in the semifinals setting up an emotional finals rematch against Dylan Valderrama of Yuba City. Valderrama defeated Harmon just one week earlier, and it left a bitter taste in Harmon’s mouth.
“This is the biggest match for me. This kid (Valderrama) caught me off guard and by surprise last week and pinned me in the first round. I haven’t forgotten that and I am here to prove that I am the best,” a focused Harmon said before taking the mat and getting his revenge with a 9-4 finals victory. The match was tied at two after the first period and Harmon took a 5-3 advantage at the end of the second period. He put away Valderrama with a late slam that got the large Oakdale fan base to their collective feet. It has been a short season for Harmon, as he was on the Mustangs state championship football team and joined wrestling after the New Year.
Garcia also will be returning to the state meet for the second time in his career. His journey to Bakersfield became a reality thanks to a late rally in the third period of the finals. Garcia faced Isaiah Perez of Pitman where Garcia had control of most of the match. He led 3-1 at the conclusion of the first period but Perez scored two unanswered in the second. Perez took a 4-3 advantage in the third period but Garcia rallied for two points with just 34 seconds remaining in the match to win 5-3.
“This is a very important tournament. However, my main goal as a senior is to be in the finals next week and be a true state champion,” Garcia said.
At 182 pounds Harlan bulldozed his way through the tournament. He earned three straight pin fall victories to begin the tournament and finished with two major decisions in the semifinals and finals to earn top honors in the weight class. Harlan defeated Lodi’s Justin Medeiros 11-2, scoring five of his points in the second period, to earn the championship.
“This is awesome. My journey has been rough, I didn’t place my freshman year and last year I couldn’t even compete, but here I am as a junior and punched my ticket to state,” Harlan said. “My main goal was to score as many points as possible for my team.”
Finishing third for the Mustangs and also advancing to the State Meet is Jake Ryan. The junior went 7-1 over the two days and defeated Chad Reese of Ponderosa 5-0 to secure his trip to the state tournament in the 145-pound class. Teammate Gabe Martinez advanced to the semifinals on day two after going 3-0 on Friday. However, Martinez went 1-2 on Saturday and placed fifth after defeating Brady Mello of Golden Valley 5-0 in the consolation round.
As a team Oakdale placed third with a total score of 191.50. First place went to Vacaville. Other Mustangs who made the trip to Stockton Arena were Dustin Chavez (120, 3-2), Jake Abeyta (126, 5-2 seventh place) Luis Ayala (195, 3-3 eighth place), Jorge Barajas (220, 2-2) and Matt Kjeldgaard (285, 3-2).
The CIF State Championship begins at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 3 at the Rabobank Arena.