The buzz started before the wrestling did, when coaches, fans and participants at the 2011 Valley Oak League Wrestling Championships learned that Alex Nuanez of Sierra had cut from 189 pounds to enter the 171 bracket.
Nuanez, who qualified for the California Interscholastic Federation Wrestling Championships at the same weight in 2011, gave onlookers at East Union High’s Dalben Center some serious twinges of anxiety as they awaited his showdown with returning seventh place state medalist (152 pounds) Trent Noon of Oakdale.
Even Noon himself wasn’t immune to the buzz.
“Everyone was telling me it was going to be a good match,” Noon said. “Right away all I thought was that I wanted to tech (win by a 15-point mercy rule) him.”
Noon took down, turned, and stacked Nuanez at will in their league finale, and landed a 13-0 lead just four minutes in before snaring a takedown six seconds into the final round for a one-sided tech-fall and VOL title.
And he wasn’t alone.
Oakdale sent an incredible 13 of 14 wrestlers to the title match of their weights, landing 10 firsts, three seconds and one fourth place finish to advance their entire varsity lineup to Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships in El Dorado. Oakdale’s 297.5 team points were just two and half shy of totaling the numbers from second place Weston Ranch (163) and third place Lathrop (137) combined.
Noon’s big win accompanied titles from Juan Garza (103), Garrett Fortado (112), Ronnie Stevens (119), Tanner Feuerstein (130), Shane Tate (135), David Ferry (145), Dustin Harris (152), Hondo Arpoika (189) and A.C. Brown (215).
Miko Arpoika (160) slugged through an exciting match with Sierra’s Jose Cortez, but allowed a late takedown and a 3-2 defeat. Tyler Malone (second at 140) and Tyler Noon (second at 125) struggled to get anything going in their title matches, and saw an undersized Kyle Cupit go 1-2 to finish fourth at 275.
“Overall we did good, but I do feel we could have wrestled a little better in the finals,” Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. “Trent really worked hard. He is super tough, and he can just be mean when he needs to be.”
David Ferry gave wrestling fans a glimpse of the wonder that carried him to a 2011 state title after three straight first round pins in the tourney. He sunk his hips deep to toss Sonora’s Josh Pfeiffer in a stunning 28-second throw and pin in the semifinals. A round later, he trapped Kimball’s Luis Cornejo in an awkward position, using only his legs to pin the finalist with just one second remaining in the opening round.
“We had guys in the finals 13 weights in a row, so it really felt more like a dual meet for us,” Ferry said. “We have all been real excited for this postseason to start.
“This is what we have been waiting for all year.”
Garza kicked the finals off with a 7-2 rout of Manteca’s Charlie Alvitre, followed by Fortado’s dominant 20-5 tech of Weston Ranch wrestler, Daniel Guzman. Stevens accepted an injury default win, and saw Feuerstein upend Joe Anthony Gomez of Weston Ranch in a 14-2 major decision.
Tate expertly manipulated Kimball’s Trent Nicholson in a 15-0 victory, while Harris upended section ranked Aiden Foster in a 4-0 finale.
Hondo Arpoika’s forfeit win and a 3:10 pin from Brown signaled the end to Oakdale’s run through the finals, and the VOL tourney.
The 14 qualifiers open D-IV action at Union Mine High with first round matches at 11 a.m. on Friday. They square off against top four finishers from both the Western Athletic Conference and Sierra Valley Conference in a 12-man bracket to decide five seeds from each weight to the all-division SJS Masters the following week.
High placements at Divisionals are key, as placements are plugged into a formula at the Masters meet, where low seeds can set wrestlers up with unfavorable early match-ups.
The Division IV finals should kick off around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Oakdale also out-pointed all teams on the junior varsity scale after winning 12 medals and eight first place titles.
David Vierra, Joey Jacobson and Karrel Estell placed first, second and third respectively at 112, while Jake Jacobson (125), Robert Barnhart (130), Tanner Morgan (140), Tanner Reeves (145), Bailey Dryden (152), Jeremy Brandau (171) and Zack Fallentine (189) all nabbed gold medals.
Anthony Hernandez (103) and Eric Barragan (275) also placed second for the Mustangs.