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Casillas Lone Cougar Qualifier For State Wrestling Meet
Escalon’s Bradley Hagglund grabs Hilmar’s Steven Silva at 160 pounds. Silva ultimately won this match by pin on Friday. Times Photo By Dave Campbell

A tough weekend saw the season end for the bulk of the Escalon wrestling team, with Julia Casillas the only one moving on from the Masters Meet, headed back to the state tournament.

“The EHS ladies had two girls compete,” said head coach Derek Scott. “Having her career ended after two wild back and forth matches was Kaylee Freeseha. Kaylee had a great year and ended like a champion, with her experience and personal stress she’s had to deal with this year, she did a phenomenal job all season.”

Julia Casillas took the mats for Escalon at 126 pounds and, said Scott, showed “the heart it takes to be a champion.”

Losing her first match, Casillas was hampered after re-injuring her shoulder and will most likely require surgery at the end of the year.

“Things looked very bleak for her. Julia gutted down and won six matches in a row all by fall to take third place and earn her second trip to the state meet,” Scott said. “Julia showed what kind of competitor she really is, things looked bad and she bounced back. I think looking at her family it’s easy to see where she gets her strength and toughness from. So many people nowadays have an excuse or baby each other when anything goes wrong. Julia’s family is there to support her but cuts her no slack. They expect her to work hard and be tough. I love seeing that. We are all really proud of how she responded.”

The girls were coached by Johnny Costa and Erica Lopez; and Casillas will wrestle in the girls state meet, running Feb. 27 through 29 at the Bakersfield Centennial Gardens.

“EHS brought six boys to Stockton with the hope of qualifying for state. We had wrestled great last weekend and had a great week of practice,” Scott said of traveling for the Feb. 21 and 22 competition. “We got off to a slow start, and it took everyone a while to get going. We had two ranked wrestlers, and one lost and one got a slow start. Guys who shouldn’t be close to us beat us. I think it got everyone on a downward beat.”

Ending their seasons, going 0-2 were JW Mills, Christian Rowe, and Manny Diaz. They had great years, noted Scott, as Mills and Rowe are freshmen and Diaz was a first year varsity starter, who was one of the team leaders all year.

Competing and being seeded in the top six, but having an unfortunate weekend and ending their EHS careers were seniors Brad Hagglund and Garrett Nash.

Both wrestlers went 1-2 on the weekend. Nash made the quarterfinals but then lost his next two matches to bow out and Hagglund “just had an awful day and couldn’t turn it around,” Scott said.

“He has never lost to someone of the pedigree of his first match and in his third match got pinned in the first round against an opponent he had beaten four times earlier this year and as recently as last week, heartbreaking loss. I feel bad for Brad, he had a great career at EHS,” Scott noted. “Nash wrestled tough his two first matches. Lost to a really good opponent in the quarters, just could never loosen up in his match to medal. I feel bad for him. These tournaments just don’t have the margin for errors to lose matches you shouldn’t lose. Garrett has been a great leader and teammate.”

The best performance of the weekend for the boys came from Aidan Krieger, a junior, who went 6-2 and finished the Masters in seventh place, just missing out on qualifying for state.

“Aidan won a really hard match to get into the quarterfinals and get into the medal rounds and for seventh and eighth. Aidan looked hungry and loose and went after it,” said Scott. “He was 3-0 in close matches, and where he really showed guts was his match to get into the medal round, getting a takedown with three seconds left after trailing the whole match to medal. Then after medaling he missed out going to state to come back and dominate a tough Oakmont kid who was ranked ahead of him 5-0 in convincing fashion to take seventh was impressive.”

Coaching the event were Derek and Ray Scott, Ray Krieger, Eric Rowe, Kirk Smith, and parent volunteer Jeremy Mills.