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Grapplers Complete Solid, Successful Season
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Middle School students from El Portal have completed a successful wrestling season, winning the majority of their matches.

Head coach Jim Sughrue said the young grapplers - with sixth through eighth graders participating - had a combined mark of 275 wins, 64 losses in their matches. The matches came in both dual meets with other middle and junior high school opponents, along with some tournament action.

"We wrestle everybody, not just one kid at one weight," Sughrue said, noting that the goal is to allow every student to get some experience on the mats. "We start around 70 pounds and go all the way up to the heavyweights, we go in five-pound increments up to 160 pounds, then go in 10-pound increments."

Sughrue worked with assistants Miguel Vasquez and Kevin Sanchez this year, both of whom wrestled at Escalon High before graduating from the local high school. Vasquez also currently wrestles at Modesto Junior College.

"They were a big help, they are a big part of why we were so successful this year," Sughrue pointed out.

The two also received a stipend for their work, the money raised through various wrestling team fundraisers.

In a season-ending tournament, the Panthers came away with 14 first place honors, nine second place and three third place finishes. They also hosted Mae Hensley School of Ceres for their final home match shortly before the Easter spring break and had a number of strong efforts there as well, said Sughrue.

"We match kids as close as we can," Sughrue said of the weight classes. "The goal is to get everyone a match."

With 37 kids on the roster to start the season, this was the largest El Portal team to date, said Sughrue. A few dropped out before the end but the coach said he was pleased with the overall performance.

"I'll be sending the best group of eighth graders I've had on to the high school next year," he noted. "There will be 11 kids moving up and they're all pretty solid wrestlers."