If Oakdale High wrestling fans wanted an improbable upset victory for Christmas, than Santa granted their wishes during unlikely dual meet at the Mustang gymnasium on Dec. 23.
Oakdale, ranked No. 25 in the state by The California Wrestling Newsletter, won seven of 14 matches against No. 4 ranked Gilroy and capitalized on clever match management to capture a 27-26 thrilling victory in front of their home crowd.
“I was joking with (assistant coach Steve Strange) and asking him why did we schedule these guys, they are so tough,” head coach Brian Stevens said after the dual. “On paper it didn’t look like we had much of a chance but there is always a possibility because our guys are tough and you always have a chance.”
Gilroy entered the dual with just one wrestler missing from a lineup that includes seven state ranked wrestlers and six in the top-16. Oakdale entered with only wrestler from last year’s list of nine state qualifiers and badly battered by the absence of possibly their best wrestler, Dustin Harris (knee injury).
“I appreciate Oakdale hosting us,” Gilroy coach Greg Varela said. “Oakdale came out and wrestled like warriors and did a great job. We only get a few duals a year in our area, so it’s nice to go head to head with a top-25 team in the state like Oakdale.”
Oakdale capitalized on two forfeits (at 106 to Nico Colunga and at 126 to Jake Jacobson) and a few key upsets to steal the win. The biggest victory was corralled by 138-pound junior Tyler Noon (No. 36 in the state), who landed a third round takedown to topple No. 12-ranked Aaron Gonzalez in a 5-4 match.
“I want to place at state this year, so it was a good test of where I am at to wrestle him,” Noon said afterwards. “I thought he was tired at the end and I knew I was tired, but I wanted it more.”
The forfeits and a 4-2 Juan Garza (No. 17) win over Jesse Vasquez (No. 39) gave Oakdale an 18-7 lead after Noon’s victory. A 4-5 loss by Mustang freshman Max Stevens against two-time state qualifier Leif Dominguez (No. 20) surrendered only three team points to Gilroy.
The lightweight success ensured Oakdale would lead for the remainder of the dual, while wins from Abel Caliz (3-2 over Lupe Jiminez), Hondo Arpoika (5-1 over Mark Penyascek) and Kyle Cupit (7-4 over Frank Martinez) garnered three points each.
Oakdale saw some heroic efforts in defeat, including from Frank Trent who filled in for Harris at 170 pounds. Trent was turned to his back on multiple occasions, but fought hard to avoid the pin and surrendered only a 2-8 loss. The match came down to a heavyweight showdown between Eric Barragan and No. 16 ranked Jose Lara. If Lara won by anything other than a three-point decision, it would have granted Gilroy a tie or victory, but Barragan wrestled smart to avoid dangerous headlocks and slip to a 1-3 defeat.
“I don’t wrestle as an individual at duals, I wrestle for the team,” Barragan said. “I just sucked in my pride and did what my coaches told me to avoid risky situations.”
“Eric was wrestling a good kid, but we had a good strategy and he stuck to it to help us win,” coach Strange said. “It seemed like everybody battled for every single point. It was just a well-rounded team effort.”
The win improved Oakdale’s nonleague dual record to a sharp 6-0.m Oakdale went on to face some of the best wrestlers in the nation at the Sierra Nevada Classic on Dec. 28 and 29 and finished 16th among 97 teams.
Garza landed Oakdale’s top medal with a fourth place finish at 113 pounds. He lost twice to Austin Rumsey of Shadow Ridge (Nevada), but won all six of his other matches.
Colunga bested his seventh seed with admission into the tournament semifinals, but fell to eventual tournament champ and former teammate Angel Martinez (Central Catholic) in a 3-1 showdown. Colunga dropped his next match to the No. 1 seed from Oregon, but battled back to win his last match for a fifth place showing.
Max Stevens (four wins), Jake Jacobson (three), Robbie Barnhart (one), Tyler Noon (two), Tyler Malone (three), Abel Caliz (three), Tanner Reeves (one), Trent (one), Miko Arpoika (two) and Hondo Arpoika (two) all landed victories across tournament action.