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Engel Tournament Welcomes Wrestlers For Annual Event
Looking toward the referee to see how long he has to hold down his opponent, Escalon’s EJ Lewis was voted Most Outstanding Heavyweight wrestler and took home championship honors in the division with a 6-0 mark at the Engel Tournament. Marg Jackson/The Times

It wasn’t easy – and in fact some wrestlers had to drop out due to COVID concerns during the event – but the two-day annual Lloyd C. Engel Wrestling Tournament went off as scheduled at Escalon High School.

Opening day matches were Friday, Jan. 7 and the second day on Saturday, Jan. 8 saw some Cougars finish in the top spot of their weight division.

“We had 14 wrestlers start the tournament and we ended up with six medalists,” said head coach Derek Scott.

At 113 pounds, JW Mills put together a 5-2 record and finished fourth in Pool A.

“He lost a hard match we hoped he would win,” Scott said of Mills having to settle for the fourth place finish. “With him, though, it’s never a lack of effort.”

Kalyb Miller, at 120 pounds, was first in Pool B at 4-2, bouncing back after struggling to make weight the first day and coming away with top honors.

Christian Rowe took second place in Pool A at 152 pounds, going 5-1 over the two days.

“He had a really good match in the finals and lost to a Section-ranked kid from Atwater,” explained Scott. “And this was his first tournament.”

It was also the first tournament action for JP Lial, who took fourth place in Pool A with a 5-2 record at 197 pounds.

“I’m just very happy with him, he has battled back from some serious injuries to not only play football but also wrestle,” Scott pointed out.

At heavyweight, Aidan Freitas went 4-3 in Pool B and garnered first place.

“He lost his first three matches and then came back to win,” said Scott.

And the most impressive wrestler for Escalon at the tournament was heavyweight EJ Lewis, who went 6-0, took first place in Pool A, and was voted as the Most Outstanding Heavyweight Wrestler.

“I was very impressed, especially with his last two matches,” Scott said. “He beat a kid from Ponderosa and then a kid from Tokay in the finals.”

Lewis does not have a ton of experience on the mats, Scott said, but has worked hard and it is paying off.

“He has overcome adversity, he’s a great athlete and I’m just very happy for him,” Scott said.

The coach noted that 37 teams were scheduled to participate but nine had to drop out due to COVID and there were strict protocols in place throughout the tournament.

“My coaches did a great job, my family and the Abel family of Oakdale ran the head table and Seth Davis, our girls’ head coach, is the Tournament Director; he is a life saver,” Scott explained. “The McCoy family sponsored the tournament and I also want to thank Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey (who is retiring this year) as she has served as the tournament medic for years and is a longtime family friend.”

Early in this bout, JP Lial of Escalon, right, sizes up his Lodi opponent in the 197-pound division; Lial won by pin in the first round. Marg Jackson/The Times