The El Portal Middle School Panther Duals Championships took place this past weekend at Escalon High School. This was a multi-team round robin tournament that put El Portal up against Mae Hensley from Ceres, Big Valley of Modesto, Creekside of Patterson, Salida and Somerset of Modesto.
“After two quick rounds with Mae Hensley and Big Valley we faced powerhouse Creekside but our guys were ready for them and we ended up winning 60-36,” said coach Dimos Birakos. “This put us up against Salida but the result was the same for El Portal. The final match was against Somerset who went 3-0 in the morning and gave us a tough match a few weeks ago but once again the Panthers proved too much for them as we won that one 66-29. “
When it was all set and done a healthy combination of El Portal’s young guns and big guns in the line-up had gone 5-0 vs. some good teams and claimed the championship. Salida finished in second place, Creekside in third and Somerset fourth, all going 3-2 for the day.
“All of our guys wrestled tough this weekend and some even wrestled up a weight class to eliminate forfeits,” noted Birakos.
Luke Anderson weighed in at 145 and wrestled up a weight class at 168 but that didn’t seem to slow him down as he went 5-0 for the day and end up getting a little revenge, pinning an opponent that beat him last week from Somerset.
Also, Aidan Krieger looked good going 4-1 for the day, Garrett Nash was one of the team’s leaders and went 5-0 with three wins by way of pins.
“Ty Harris picked up where he left off from last year going 4-1 with his only loss coming to a kid two weight classes up due to an error from the other coach,” Birakos said. “Miguel Granillo, who won one match last year, finished the day 3-2 but it should have been 4-1 if it wasn’t for a small mistake that will not happen again. He has been on fire for us this year.”
Panther Brayden Vega won outstanding wrestler of the tournament going 5-0 with all five coming by way of pins.
“He just dominated,” said Birakos.
El Portal also farmed some of their younger wrestlers out to other schools to help out with forfeits and they too did well. Josh Miller went 4-1, EJ Lewis 2-0, Luis Garcia and Casey Vassallo wrestled great.
“We had a total of 35 wrestlers either wrestle or help out with the tournament and I would like to thank all the parents, coaches, wrestlers and ex-wrestlers that helped run this tournament and make it a success,” Birakos said.
On Thursday, March 3 the Panthers wrestled Ustach Middle School from Modesto and won 78-21 for their fifth win in a row, increasing their record to 5-1 for the season.
“We won 26 out of 32 matches and this was truly a team effort as we had 18 different wrestlers pick up one or multiple wins for your El Portal Panthers,” Birakos noted. “Although Ustach didn’t have any wrestlers between 94 pounds and 105 pounds, which is where our strength is with returners like Aidan Krieger and Garrett Nash, the rest of the guys did just fine. Bryan Hale and Dylan Parks did their part by picking up two wins for us with Dylan earning the wrestler of the night award for his gutsy wrestling performance. He wrestled multiple matches for us and he also wrestled up a weight class for two of those matches.”
Justis Dutt looked good again winning all three of his matches and returning back to form. Young guns Luis Garcia and EJ Lewis also picked up three wins and they are now leading the team in wins with 10 each along with JP Lial and Dylan Parks.
Tuesday, March 1 action saw the middle schoolers travel to Somerset to take on the Tigers and this dual meet came down to two matches, luckily for El Portal the Panthers beat the Tigers by a score of 68-57.
“As usual, this is a team effort and you are only as good as your weakest guy but we had some guys that stepped up big time to secure our fourth win in a row. Luis Garcia, Ty Harris, Dylan Parks, Bryan Hale, Brad ‘Chad’ Hagglund and Sean Vassallo, all six pinned both of their guys to secure the victory for us.”
Earlier season action, coming in late February, saw the Panthers handle Salida on Feb. 25 and take on the Salida Tournament on Feb. 27.
“Thursday (Feb. 25) we wrestled against Salida at home and we ended up winning 75-42. The big winners of the night winning two or more matches were our captain eighth grader Garrett Nash, sixth grader Sebastian Snow and second grader Xander Birakos beating two Salida fifth graders, all three went 2-0 for the night,” said the coach. “Not to be outdone sixth grader JP Lial went 3-0 and secured himself the first place on the team with most wins bringing his number to eight.”
But you don’t get to 75 points with only four people wrestling, Birakos added, noting this was a great team performance from the whole team.
At the Salida JV tourney on Saturday, Feb. 27, all 14 of the JV grapplers walked away with top three medals.
First place went to brothers Sean Vassallo and Casey Vassallo, Josh Miller, JP Lial, Dylan Parks, Austin Roberts, EJ Lewis and Gino Stern.
Second place finishers were Louis Garcia, Gabby Meneses, Jacob Dugo and Melissa Arteaga.
Third place went to Phillip Ellis and Alexis Barron.
Overall at the JV tournament, the Panthers won 32 matches with only dropping seven.