Heading to Hughson for the Trans-Valley League tournament, Escalon wrestlers came home with the league title solidly in hand and 12 Cougars qualifying for the divisionals, the stepping stone to the Masters Tournament.
Both the varsity and JV squads were in action at the tourney, with top finishes from a number of wrestlers.
Head coach Derek Scott said he was very pleased with the way the tournament went, with the Cougars taking the majority of matches he thought they would, and winning multiple weight classes along the way.
“Kyle Jimenez at 108 pounds, went undefeated and took first place,” Scott said.
Justin Azevedo took third place at 115 pounds, with a fifth place showing from Clayton Jones at 122. First through fourth place qualify for divisionals, with the fifth place finisher as an alternate.
Chase Tompson, at 128 pounds, placed fifth.
“At 134, Cameron DuBois took second, he had a good day and at 140, looking good, coming back with a clean bill of health, Tyler Lawrence took first place and looked great,” Scott explained. “And at 147 pounds, Colton Camara was completely dominant and took first place.”
The varsity Cougars also got a stellar outing from Josh Redding, who took first place at 152.
“He is just improving by leaps and bounds,” Scott said of the senior Redding.
Also making the most of his opportunity, Clayton Keener took over the 160-pound slot vacated by the injured Frankie Bavaro and crafted a third place finish.
“He gets to move on, did a nice job of stepping up,” Scott said of Keener.
The best bout came at 170 pounds, with Austin Martinez grabbing the spotlight.
“It was the match of the night, Austin was ranked eighth in the section and he wrestled the third ranked kid in the section, took him down,” Scott explained.
That gave Martinez a 3-0 record and first place honors.
“He was also voted the most outstanding middleweight wrestler and this was a huge confidence builder for him, heading into divisionals,” said Scott, noting that Martinez is one of many Cougars wrestling their best as they near the end of the season.
“At 182 pounds, fighting through a bad illness this week, Matt Gallego battled through, he took second place,” noted Scott. “And the second best match of the night came from A.J. Camarena at 195 pounds, he beat a kid from Hughson, basically out-toughed the kid to take first place.”
Continuing his strong season, Dominic Freeseha was dominant at 220 pounds, rolling to a 3-0 mark and first place; while heavyweight Marc Camarena rounded out the qualifiers, taking fourth place to make it to divisionals.
“As a team we took first place, 216-170 over (second place) Ripon, and I was really encouraged,” Scott said.
At the JV level, the young Cougars had plenty of success, with a handful of champions at that level as well.
Taking first place honors for the JV squad were Daniel Wallace at 162 pounds, going 3-0 to earn the title.
“He had a really nice season, he put in all the off season work and improved a ton,” explained Scott. “I am really happy with him this year.”
With a small pool of wrestlers at the 170 and 183 weight classes, the two were combined for the JV competition.
“Hunter Calton took first place, we expect him to be a good varsity wrestler next year,” said Scott. “Also at 220, Nathan Reichert took first place, he really improved this year.”
Second place showings for JV wrestlers came from Jonathan Dietzel, 128 pounds; Greg Artiaga, 134; Marco Mendoza, 154; Logan Avara, 162 and Frank Martins, heavyweight.
In third place were Michael Yang, 128 pounds; Trenton Busch, 134; Christian Manzo, 154. Andrew Gastello took fourth place honors at 147 pounds.
Scott said the tournament closed out the season for the JV team, which performed well and improved throughout the season. The varsity, he added, is coming together well.
“I think our team is peaking, we look ready to make a deep playoff run,” Scott said.
He also said Escalon was tapped for the Coach of the Year honor but he said that belongs to an entire coaching crew, from his assistants to parent helpers to volunteers that work with the kids and help him put on tournaments throughout the season.
“Coach of the Year, to me it is a testament to the great coaching staff and the volunteers we have to help us,” he said.
Coming up on Saturday, Feb. 22, the varsity qualifiers take on the divisionals in Delhi, where the top four in each weight class move on to the Masters Meet.
“Our main goal is to get as many kids as possible into the top four to go on,” said Scott.