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Four Cougar Champions Crowned At Engel Tournament
B VEGA 106
Battling tough, Braiden Vega came out on top in this match to finish in third place at 106 pounds, going 5-2 overall in Pool A. Here, he won by a 4-1 decision over his Bella Vista opponent.Times Photos By Marg Jackson

Escalon’s annual Lloyd C. Engel Tournament saw 35 teams send wrestlers to the two-day event and the host Cougars came away with four champions.

Head coach Derek Scott said he went in a little concerned, as this was the first time the event had been hosted while school was not in session, coming on the Friday and Saturday before classes resumed Monday after the long holiday break.

“There were a few glitches but we got great support from the community, the administration … everyone pulled together,” Scott said.

He also offered thanks to the McCoy Family-Quality Service which served as sponsor for the event and all the help running the snack bar, head table, the entry table and food servers.

The two-day event wrapped up a busy week for the Cougar grapplers, which started out with a Trans-Valley League match on the road at Hughson on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

The JV Cougars won by forfeit, while the varsity crafted a 66-15 win over the Huskies. On Friday and Saturday, the girls headed to an 84-tream tournament in Napa.

Julia Casillas went 2-2 at 121 pounds and Mikayla Vega took third place honors, going 5-1 at 111 pounds.

“It was her first loss of the year, she lost in in quadruple overtime,” Scott said of the lone loss for Vega in the Napa event.

Back at home, 19 different Cougars had matches over the two days of the Engel Tournament.

“We have A and B divisions in most weights, a couple weights had C divisions,” Scott said of accommodating the large number of wrestlers.

At 106 pounds, Braiden Vega went 5-2 and earned a third place medal in Pool A.

“He was battling illness,” Scott said, noting that Vega fought hard to get his third place finish.

In his first varsity action of the year, Miguel Souza went 5-2 and took fourth place in Pool A at 120 pounds. Aidan Krieger went 3-3 at 126 pounds.

“By far the best he has wrestled this year, Garrett Nash went 4-2 and took fourth place in Pool A at 132 pounds,” Scott said. “Also wrestling well, Livius Seung went 5-1 and took third in Pool A at 132 pounds.”

Battling to a 4-2 record in Pool A, Brad Hagglund took fourth place at 145 pounds.

“Kind of a heartbreaking day, both of his losses were close,” noted Scott.

At 152 pounds, Ethan Krieger went 4-3 and took third place in Pool C; Alfredo Zarate went 3-2 at 170 pounds for the Cougars.

Julian Gutierrez earned a fourth place medal in Pool A with a 4-2 mark at 170 pounds, while Roman Gonzales went 4-2 for a second place finish in Pool B at 170 pounds.

“Looking really good, going 3-0 and the best of the 170s but held out the second day on a coaches’ decision was Hugo Alcala,” Scott explained.

Luke Anderson went 3-3 at 182 pounds, and finishing with a 5-2 mark, good for a fourth place finish in Pool A at 195 pounds, was Stephen Mendez.

“He has looked really good this season,” Scott said of Mendez.

At heavyweight, Jonathan Santos went 4-3 and placed third in Pool B while Sean Vassallo went 3-4 and took fourth in Pool B at heavyweight.

“We had four champions,” added Scott. “Going 6-0, taking first place in Pool A and voted Most Outstanding Wrestler was Alex Jimenez at 126 pounds.”

Also going 6-0, with a first place finish in Pool A at 160 pounds, was David Ryan.

“It is the best he has looked, he just does everything we ask of him,” Scott said of Ryan.

In Pool B, Donnie Smith went 5-1 to earn first place at 182 pounds and in Pool A at 182 pounds, Jake Lawrence continued his strong comeback season, going 6-0 to nail down first place honors.

“Overall it went really good,” the coach said of the tournament, pleased to have had such a strong showing from the Cougars and such support from the school and community.

This week, the team gets back into TVL action, scheduled to wrestle at Ripon on Jan. 10. They then go to the Tim Brown Tournament in Sacramento on Friday and Saturday and come home to host Hilmar in a 6:30 p.m. match on Wednesday, Jan. 17.