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Cougar Wrestlers Battle To Top Engel Tournament Honors
Two solid days of wrestling, seeding matches on day one and championship rounds on day two, Escalon came away with the biggest prize of them all: a hard-fought championship and an outstanding wrestler honor.

Senior Johnathon Costa pulled off the double win, outlasting Central Catholic standout Ray Lomas in the finals of the 170-pound Pool A bracket on Saturday. Costa went 6-0 for the tournament, winning three matches on Friday to earn his seeding in the top tier 'A' bracket.

"He beat a returning state qualifier in the semifinals and beat Ray Lomas, also a returner from state, in the finals," said Escalon coach Derek Scott. "Lomas is tough, he's the real deal, he finished football, had three days of practice and won his weight at the Sierra Nevada Classic (in Reno)."

Costa earned a 4-2 win in the finals, by far the most impressive match of his career and the victory completed a run through the Engel that earned him the Most Outstanding Wrestler honor for the heavyweights at the tournament.

"This was just a great win for him," Scott said, noting that Costa now appears poised for his own stab at getting to the state meet.

Costa's 6-0 mark and Pool A championship were highlights of this year's Engel Tournament for the Cougars, but there were several other notable performances as well.

"There were 37 teams there, by far the toughest teams we have ever had," Scott said. "The refs all felt it was one of the toughest tournaments they have done this year but with the format, everyone gets to wrestle in their own pool."

Friday matches allow for wrestlers to enter the Saturday matches in pools featuring wrestlers of roughly their same skill level.

Each weight class had its own set of pools, said Scott, some with as few as three pools, A, B and C; some with up to six pools for competition.

By weight, the Cougar grapplers turned in several outstanding performances.

At 106 pounds in Pool D, Kyle Jimenez went 3-3 and took first place. Khyle Delucchi was second in Pool C at that weight with a two-day record of 2-4.

Cameron DuBois went 4-3 at 120 pounds, earning third place honors in Pool C. Colton Camara also wrestled at that weight but did not finish the tournament on a referee decision.

At 132 pounds, Austin Jones took fourth place in Pool D, going 3-4. Cole McCoy wrestled at 138 pounds in Pool B but did not place, though he turned in a solid effort at 3-3.

"This was the best he has wrestled in a long time," Scott said of McCoy's overall performance.

Clayton Keener took second in Pool D with a 2-4 mark at 145 pounds and A.J. Camarena was third in Pool C at 170 pounds, going 4-3. Garrett Wade, also wrestling at 170 pounds, had a tough day on Friday and went to Pool C, where he claimed first place honors with a 4-2 mark.

"We had three guys that I felt did a really good job" against some stiff competition, said Scott. All three were in Pool B. At 145 pounds, Josh Redding was fourth with a record of 5-2 and turned in some of the better matches of the tournament. Austin Martinez was 6-1 at 152 pounds to finish third and Matt Gallego went 4-2 at 170 pounds to take second.

In the top bracket, Pool A, the Cougars had three other representatives in addition to Costa, and all finished the tournament with accolades.

"Tyler Lawrence went 5-1 to finish second at 132 pounds," Scott explained. "He lost in the finals to a state placer and there were four returning state qualifiers in the bracket."

Jason Robbins took the mats at 145 pounds and battled his way to a 5-1 record for another second place finish.

"He was battling bronchitis and a death in the family, he lost a grandparent during the week so that just shows how mentally tough he is, how he can get focused," Scott pointed out. "He beat a Ponderosa kid in the semifinals, he lost to a Central Catholic wrestler in the finals."

Also fighting hard for every win, Dominic Freeseha compiled a 5-1 record for the Cougars at 220 pounds, taking second place.

"He lost by one point in the finals but to get there, he beat two guys that were seeded way higher than he was," Scott said of the determined wrestler.

As far as the tournament itself, the coach said things moved well and the entire event "went as smooth as it possibly could go" considering there were some 450 wrestlers involved, 37 teams and multiple mats in use in both gyms.

"We had great support, from everyone on campus, the vice principal up to the superintendent," Scott said. "We fed over 150 coaches and I can't thank the parents, the people in the community enough, whether they worked the head table, provided for the coach's lounge, worked the snack bar."

Scott said it would be too difficult to name them all, since the effort required dozens of volunteers. He did say, though, that many coaches from other schools congratulated him on the tournament and said they couldn't pull it off, since they wouldn't have the type of community support the Escalon program had.

The tournament itself was sponsored by Quality Service-The Tom McCoy family and the Escalon Lions Club hosted the coach's lounge. Mayor Ed Alves sponsored the trophies for the Most Outstanding Wrestlers, with the heavyweight honor going to Costa.

The wrestlers get back to league action this week, traveling to Orestimba today, Jan. 16. This weekend, the JV team will go to Enochs, the varsity 'B' team to Gregori and top varsity wrestlers will take on the Foothill Meet in Sacramento.