Only six high school wrestling teams attended the 2011 John Zhender Duals at Elk Grove High on Dec. 17, but they were six very good teams and Oakdale was the cream of the crop. Oakdale went 5-0 across a full day of action against five of the best teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section and the North Coast Section.
They topped a field that included the No. 3 team from last year’s NCS Masters championships (College Park) and four top-10 teams from last year’s SJS Masters.
And the tests started early.
Oakdale faced returning SJS Masters No. 3 Elk Grove in the opening round of the tournament, but captured upsets across the lineup to snare a surprising 42-21 victory.
The win was followed by a 50-21 rout of Granite Bay (SJS No. 4), a 50-9 dismantling of reigning Division III team dual champion Rodriguez (SJS No. 8), a 50-22 win over College Park and a 49-18 shellacking of Oak Ridge (SJS No. 10).
“The five other schools there were all very good schools, but the guys were very impressive and wrestled really, really good,” Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. “We had a lot of upsets in our favor and lost only four of 14 matches to what is considered the No. 2 team in Masters (Elk Grove).”
Nico Colunga is currently ranked No. 5 at 106 pounds for the California Wrestling Newsletter, and he started Oakdale’s string of upsets against Elk Grove when he topped No. 3 ranked Tristan Scott by seven points.
Max Stevens (120 pounds, honorable mention) followed with a win over No. 8 ranked Ethan Larabee, while Tyler Noon (138, No. 7) impressed with a win over No. 4 ranked Matt Bettencourt.
Jake Jacobson (126, No. 5) stayed sharp with an overtime win over Davis Halberg (honorable mention), while Dustin Harris (170, No. 2) was dominant in a pin over No. 4 Scott Votino.
Harris was unbeaten until the final match of the night, when he surrendered his 5-0 lead on No. 1 ranked Keaton Subjeck (160 pounds) via injury default. Harris is likely to miss several weeks of action with the injury.
Colunga, Juan Garza (114), Noon and Abel Caliz were all undefeated during dual action. Max Stevens suffered a lone defeat to returning state qualifier Lathan Liles (No. 4) of Rodriguez, but won the rest of his matches.
Tyler Malone, Miko Arpoika and Hondo Arpoika all won matches in their first trip to the competitive mat since the football season. They joined Robbie Barnhart, Eric Barragan, Zack Fallentine, Kyle Cupit, Tanner Reeves and Eric Medrano on the list of match winners.
“Some of them wrestled for the first time and against some top competition,” coach Stevens said. “It’s nice to have them back in the lineup and though their timing and conditioning was a little off, they will have time for that to come around.”
Oakdale is currently ranked No. 25 in the state by the California Wrestling Newsletter, and likely to take a hit when No. 11 Garrett Fortado (not enrolled at OHS) and No. 20 Ronnie Stevens (broken wrist) are eliminated from the rankings. The team will be seriously tested in a dual with No. 5 Gilroy at OHS on Friday. Without Harris in the lineup, Oakdale should struggle to contend with a Gilroy lineup that contains five top-15 state ranked wrestlers and eight in the top 40. The meet begins at 7 p.m.
“That is going to be a battle because Gilroy is loaded,” coach Stevens said. “It will be a big task for us but our guys will wrestle hard.
“The good thing is that if you come wrestle at Oakdale, you will wrestle the toughest kids in the state. That is always what we have tried to do with our schedule.”