Senior wrestlers in the Valley Oak League must have night terrors about wild horses.
The Oakdale Mustangs have dominated the conference championship tournament with an incredible 36 (out of a possible 42) bracket finalists since 2011 and own rights to 28 VOL titles across that span. The rest of the conference combined for only half of that.
At a stage of the postseason where only four individuals move on to the next week, the presence of a program on the cusp of 13 Sac-Joaquin Section banners in seven years is about as welcome as a silverback gorilla at a tea party.
Oakdale wrestlers will batter the 14 brackets with high seeds in nearly every weight class as conference teams vie for Division IV qualifications at Kimball on Saturday.
Oakdale has qualified an entire lineup to the D-IV Championships for two straight years. If it happens Saturday, the seven remaining league teams are again left with only three remaining seeds to fight for.
And it won’t be easy.
The VOL sports 22 wrestlers ranked with the best in the section, according to the California Wrestling Newsletter, and another handful that should be listed among them.
Consider this: at divisionals, the VOL, Western Athletic Conference and Sierra Valley League will send only four wrestlers in each weight to Masters. Last year, the VOL had four more Masters qualifiers than a WAC conference that includes perennial strengths Los Banos and Central Catholic and 13 more than a lackluster SVC that has never won a Division IV banner.
It’s obvious that a divisional qualification from the VOL is the most difficult rout available, while some SVC wrestlers will treat their conference finale like a walk that awards cakes.
With that in mind, let’s eyeball the brackets of the upcoming VOL Championships and pick top-three finishers for each weight. I’ll leave the fourth berths to divisionals up to your own speculation.
Here is mine:
106 — Oakdale’s Nico Colunga cruises past first-time league finalist Alex Garcia (Lathrop), who wins a thrilling semi-final over Kimball’s Robert Delgado (third).
113 — Tyler Williams of Oakdale becomes a freshman league champ after edging Nathan Bowen of Weston Ranch. Vinay Roa of Kimball takes an easy third.
120 — The broken wrist that kept Oakdale’s Ronnie Stevens from a junior title provides plenty motivation as a senior. This weight goes Stevens, Reese Chew (Kimball), Gerardo Cuevas (East Union).
126 — The toughest weight at the league tourney will represent a gauntlet of matches and a stacked lineup to advance to divisionals. In the end, Max Stevens of Oakdale beats William Fishburn of Sierra for first while Peter Barrington of East Union ends third.
132 — Kimball’s Trent Nicholson wins this weight over Oakdale’s Justin Jacobson, a late addition to the Mustang roster. Colton Masters of Sonora was tough at 126, so I’ll predict him third at this weight despite the jump.
138 — Oakdale’s Jake Jacobson wins by tech or fall over Brandon Mungaro of Weston Ranch in this finale. Albert Loaiza of Sierra ends third.
145 — Tyler Noon (Oakdale) wins his bracket at the expense of finalist Lane Mierop (Sonora). Richard Navarette of Weston Ranch continues his recent success with a third-place finish.
152 — Sonora’s second league finalist, Lucas Pallante, falls to Oakdale’s Tyler Malone in this title match. Third is awarded to Zach Prieto of Manteca.
160 — The Cougars take this weight thanks to returning Masters qualifier James Simerly, who edges Oakdale’s Tanner Reeves. Lucas Widmer of Sierra rounds out a very even top three.
170 — Frankie Trent of Oakdale wins this weight despite strong opposition from Eddie Malero of Weston Ranch (second) and Omar Guzman of Lathrop (third).
182 — In the thinnest weight at league, a 1-2-3 finish is recorded by Oakdale’s Bailey Dryden, Manteca’s Matt Wilkerson and Candelario Elizando of Weston Ranch.
195 — A strong and deep weight showcases the talents of title winner Hondo Arpoika (Oakdale), runner-up Yates Hunter (Weston Ranch) and third-place Matthew Cooper (Kimball).
220 — The big three at this weight finish in this order. Oakdale’s Zack Fallentine, Cody Simerly of Weston Ranch and Anthony Melena of East Union.
285 — An exciting finale is won by Oakdale’s Eric Barragan over Kimball’s Nathan Pearlman. Josh Byrd of East Union ends third.