With over 34 teams packed in to the gyms at Escalon High School, the host Cougars came out with some top honors at the two-day Lloyd C. Engel Wrestling Tournament.
Hosted Friday and Saturday, Jan. 3 and 4, head coach Derek Scott said this was the “second best” tournament of the last 20 years for the home team.
“The Cougars had several wrestlers compete at the two day event, wrestling well but not medaling were Manuel Diaz, Christian Rowe and Jacob Redding, going 3-0 making the ‘A’ bracket the first day,” Scott explained. “They then fell short of medals. They all wrestled hard and had a good weekend; we just have to win the close matches.”
Rowe, Scott pointed out, lost a one-point match and lost one in overtime.
Competing hard and bringing home a runner up medal was J.W. Mills at 106 pounds, Pool B.
“Mills wrestled hard as always, he just needs to clean up a few things and he’ll be right there,” said Scott.
Also notching a second place overall finish was Aidan Krieger, at 138 pounds.
“Krieger looked great, finally getting comfortable. He looked like a completely different guy,” noted Scott.
Garrett Nash, a two-time Masters qualifier, narrowly missed out on a championship at 160 pounds in the A bracket.
“After finishing a long season of football, Garrett has done great so far,” Scott said, adding that he lost in overtime of the finals to his teammate, Brad Hagglund, who came away with the championship of the 160-pound division.
“I thought Brad looked good and took it home. He’s got to get in a little better shape and he will have a real chance to go to the state meet,” Scott pointed out. “He’s looking a lot more physical as of late.”
In the 113-pound Pool B bracket, Luis Garcia lost one match, earning the gold, and looked “far better than any other time this season,” said the coach, adding that Garcia is also gaining the intensity he will need later this season.
Also taking home gold in the B bracket was Sean Vassallo at heavyweight. He went 6-1 and looked confident.
“Sean hasn’t realized how strong he truly is, he gets a little more aggressive and will be formidable for anyone he faces,” Scott said.
Turning in the performance of the weekend, however, was Luke Anderson. He went into the tournament at 222 pounds and was seeded sixth as he hadn’t wrestled in a year and a half.
With a little over a week’s practice coming off of football, Anderson took the tournament title in his weight division.
“Luke looked physically dominant of his opponents and in the last three matches showed a great deal of composure and mental toughness the last two rounds of each of his last three matches, getting the match-winning takedown in the third round, utterly exhausted,” Scott explained. “In the finals against the first seed and far more experienced wrestler from Beyer ahead by one getting called for stalling with the crowd cheering on Luke, he mustered up a match sealing four-point takedown.”
The string of victories earned Anderson not only the Engel tourney title but also garnered him the Most Outstanding Upperweight Wrestler honors.
“We were very impressed with him, when he gets in shape and a little more experienced at 220’s he’s flat out too aggressive and explosive for just about all 220 pounders,” the coach said.
Scott added that the huge event went extremely well for having such a small venue.
“I want to thank all the school staff, parents, coaches, fans and supporters, and wrestlers for helping run the event so smoothly. These people are volunteers and worked their butts off,” noted Scott. “I want to give a special thanks to the Williams family for running the snack bar. My family and Kirk Smith for running the head table and mat set up and delivery. The Hagglunds for running staging, Lopez, and Rowe’s and Mills family for doing anything that possibly needed to get done.”
He went on to add that the cooking duties were handled by Jeff Williams, the Freeseha family, Joel Stevens and Tim Dugo and Kirk Smith. Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey was on scene to handle all the EMT duties.
“Thanks to Seth Davis, agreeing to become tournament director was largely responsible for the number of teams and the success of the event,” Scott said. “Finally to tournament sponsor Quality Service Inc./The Tom McCoy family.”
The team now heads to Ripon to start Trans-Valley League duals on Wednesday, Jan. 8 and then the varsity boys go to Foothill for two days with the girls going to Napa.
“The preseason is over; this is the time to see how good we can be this year,” Scott said.