If the high school wrestling season is a roller coaster, then Friday and Saturday’s action at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in Clovis caught Oakdale at the lowest point they may reach this season.
But like any good roller coaster, a drop is usually followed by a rapid rise in elevation.
A week after leaving one of the toughest tournaments in California history without a single piece of podium hardware, Oakdale faces another challenge against the state’s best at the Temecula Valley Invitational. The Friday and Saturday affair conducted inside 14 64-man brackets will be one of Oakdale’s final tests against elite opposition during the regular season.
“We are going to stick with our plan to get better by the end of the year,” Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. “The Doc Buchanan was one of the hardest tournaments I have ever seen, and Temecula Valley Tournament may be the next toughest this season.”
Oakdale’s weekend schedule, which began with their host James Riddle Classic and continued with stiff competition in Elk Grove, Reno, Clovis and now Temecula, continues at the Tim Brown Memorial Tournament in Sacramento on Jan. 20 and 21. Some of the younger Oakdale wrestlers will also head to the Lloyd C. Engel Tournament this Friday and Saturday in Escalon.
The tournament wraps four consecutive weekends for the true meat of Oakdale’s regular season. Since the focus of most elite wrestling teams is a long postseason schedule, Oakdale’s Valley Oak League lineup of local duals fails to compare with difficult tournaments, including some that measure nearly as tough as the California Interscholastic Federation Championship Tournament itself.
“Our intentions are to see the best competition we can, and we have found it this season,” Stevens said. “It’s about building momentum and wrestling at a higher level, which is the purpose of all these tournaments.
“Most of our kids will suffer a lot of losses until we hit the league and divisional tournament, but that momentum will hopefully carry us all the way through the postseason.”
Oakdale graduated five of their nine state qualifiers a season ago. Two of the four returning will not compete this season (Ronnie Stevens broke his wrist and Garrett Fortado is not enrolled at OHS), while the two on the current roster (Juan Garza and Dustin Harris) were both missing from Oakdale’s Doc Buchanan lineup because of injuries.
Without a single returning state qualifier to snare a solid seeding, Oakdale grapplers struggled against difficult brackets that included nationally ranked wrestlers from other states, seven of the eight returning California state champions from 2011 and 33 of the 42 returning California state placers.
Tyler Noon was Oakdale’s lone standout after he upset two-time state qualifier Devin Everek (ranked No. 12 in the state by the California Wrestling Newsletter) in a 3-2 first round match. Noon went 3-2 across tournament action to reach the second day and finish top-12 at 138 pounds. He was eliminated before reaching the medal rounds by state No. 4 Brian Sergi of College Park. Max Stevens (120 pounds), Miko Arpoika (182) and Hondo Arpoika (195) won one match apiece for Oakdale’s only other victories of the tournament. Nico Colunga (106), Jake Jacobson (126) and Kyle Cupit (220) failed to garner a win after landing tough draws against some of the best in the state.
Oakdale also sent varsity wrestlers to the Bulldog Classic in Turlock and the Escalon Junior Varsity Tournament on Saturday. They finished ninth in team scoring at the Bulldog Classic after a second place finish from Tyler Malone (145). Tanner Reeves (152) was third while Jeremy Brandau (182) and Eric Barragan (285) landed in fourth.
Oakdale bullied past Lathrop 59-12 and Manteca 57-12 in a three-way dual in Manteca on Jan. 4. The Mustangs surrendered a pair of forfeits to both opposing programs, but showcased their dominance by winning all but one junior varsity match in the entire night’s action.
Oakdale’s Logan Eaton impressed with a win over Lathrop’s standout freshmen Alex Garcia at 106 pounds, while Max Stevens landed a convincing 9-4 win over returning Sac-Joaquin Section Masters qualifier Andrew Aquino of Lathrop.