In a jam-packed final week of holiday break, the JV and varsity wrestlers for Escalon saw plenty of action, both at home and on the road.
“We had 20 teams at our JV tournament, we had a total of 14 kids wrestle,” head coach Derek Scott said of the one-day Mel Focha JV Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 2.
That included 10 teams that sent girls to the event, with those teams competing against each other as well.
Scott said it is often tough during the holiday break, with some athletes away with family and the team not always being at full strength. He was pleased, however, with the effort of several JV wrestlers for the tournament.
“Taking first place for us at 145 pounds was Ethan Krieger, he did a great job, went 3-0,” Scott said of the young grappler. “He’s one of those kids that could be varsity and we are really looking forward to having him (at the varsity level) next year.”
Greg Artiaga nailed down a third place medal at 152 pounds.
“He’s getting better, this was the second tournament in a row that he has gone 3-1 and he has looked better,” Scott said.
Also finishing in third place was David Ryan, showing strong with a 3-1 mark at 160 pounds.
“He has really improved and we are very excited by that,” Scott said. “As the season shakes out, he has a real good chance of getting into the varsity line up.”
At 182 pounds, Stephen Mendez went 2-2 in what Scott termed the “toughest bracket of the tournament” and did a solid job though not earning a medal this time around. Dylan Dugo took a match to the third round at heavyweight to get in some good work and Izaac Sipma looked solid in going 2-2 at 138 pounds.
“The Girls division was really tough, we had the top ranked girls team there in Enochs and we had at least 15 ranked girl wrestlers there,” Scott said.
For Escalon, which has three girl wrestlers taking the mats this season, they secured two third-place and one fourth-place finish.
After battling illness all week, Mikayla Vega fell a point shy of battling for the championship and went 3-1 overall to take third place at 106 pounds. She defeated teammate Adela Ley-Han in the third-fourth place match, Ley-Han going 2-2 for the tournament and finishing fourth.
“We were also excited to see great growth from Tristin King, in her first year wrestling, she went 3-1 and took third,” Scott said of the 121-pounder.
As far as the tournament itself, Scott said it went off smoothly, with everything coming together to get all matches completed by mid-afternoon.
He pointed to the efforts of the Williams family running the snack bar, Tom Chandley and Cathy Scott coordinating the head table, Larry Lawrence and Matt Freeseha cooking up the meat for sales of tacos and the many parent helpers and community volunteers that contributed in a variety of ways.
“Sponsors of the tournament were Grossi Fabrication-Larry Grossi family, DaSilva Dairy Farms and Dr. Hector Ley-Han,” Scott said.
It was the second major event of the week for the wrestling program, as several varsity team members attended the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 29 and 30.
“There were 90 teams there from five states,” Scott said.
Top effort for Escalon came from Kyle Jimenez, who wrestled for the first time at 120 pounds and finished in fourth place, compiling a 6-2 record over the two days.
“It was the best he has ever wrestled,” said Scott. “He did a great job, he got over some hurdles.”
Alex Jimenez went 2-2 at 113 pounds, the first time he has wrestled at that weight.
“We were pretty excited to see how he looked,” added Scott.
Rhys Panero, battling back from injury, went 1-2 at 126 pounds while Nick DeWeerd went 2-2 at the same weight. Hugo Alcala, in his first big tournament, went 1-2 at 152 pounds. Cameron DuBois was 3-2 at 160 pounds.
“He was one point away from a spot in the semifinals,” Scott said of DuBois. “At heavyweight, Danny Gonzalez bounced back from a tough first round loss and was one win away from a medal match at 3-2.”
Trenton Busch, at 145, and Fabricio Gallo, at 152, had tough outings while Marco Mendoza went just 1-2 at 170 pounds but “wrestled really well,” according to his coach.
“We got three guys into the second day, so we were really happy with that,” Scott said.
This week, the team gears up for the annual Lloyd C. Engel Wrestling Tournament, its varsity showcase event. Competition runs both Friday and Saturday, Jan. 8 and 9 starting at 9 a.m.
“We’ll have 30 to 35 teams here, then we have an Escalon Wrestling Club event on Sunday,” Scott said of the busy few days. “At the Engel Tournament, to start it off, we will have a moment of silence in memory of Pete Arellano, he and Bob Loureiro started the Escalon wrestling program in 1963.”
A longtime teacher and coach, Arellano passed away this past year.