After a lackluster team performance on the home mats Wednesday in Trans-Valley League action, Escalon head wrestling coach Derek Scott had to get mean.
It paid off.
The varsity wrestlers – coming off a 46-24 loss to Ripon – rebounded with some stellar efforts at the weekend Tim Brown Memorial Tournament in Sacramento.
“These kids work so hard, it’s difficult to get mad at them,” admitted Scott. But the league loss to the Indians forced him to challenge the team to do better and they met the challenge.
The JV team, meanwhile, took care of business at home in the Jan. 11 bout, shutting out Ripon by a 74-0 decision, avenging their loss to the Indians last season.
“It was a real good match for them,” Scott said of his JV squad. “Best matches there were Adela Ley-Han, she won by fall at 113 pounds and Julia Casillas, at 126 pounds, also won by fall.”
At the varsity level, Scott said they knew going in there were three or four matches that could have gone either way. All went Ripon’s way, with the point swing providing too much of a differential for the Cougars to overcome.
“As a team, that was the worst performance I had been involved with,” admitted Scott. “The nice thing about wrestling, we got a quick turnaround to redeem ourselves.”
Action in the Tim Brown tourney started on Friday and several wrestlers did well, though not qualifying to move on to the second day.
“We had standouts that were put out the first day, Braiden Vega went 2-2 and he wrestled really well at 106 pounds,” explained Scott. “Garrett Nash went 3-2 at 113 pounds; that was the best he has wrestled so far this season.”
There were some 85 teams at the tournament and Escalon finished in the top 25 percent, well ahead of other section opponents Calaveras, 27th place and Ripon, 47th place.
“That was really encouraging,” the coach noted, especially given the fact that they had just lost to Ripon but fared much better than the Indians in the larger tournament. “I wasn’t sure what to expect but the kids responded well.”
Also bowing out on day one was Cougar Rhys Panero, wrestling at 138 pounds and just now finally getting back into wrestling shape after a long road back from injury.
“This was his first big tournament, Rhys went 3-2, he lost one match in triple overtime, and he lost one match by one point, he lost to two eventual medalists,” Scott explained. “Plus he wasn’t sore on Saturday, we were very pleased with that.”
Four Cougars advanced to the second day of the competition.
Livius Seung and Alex Jimenez both made it to the top 16 but did not get to the medal rounds.
“Livius went 4-2 at 132 pounds, it was the best he has looked,” Scott said. “Also not placing but wrestling tough was Alex Jimenez, he had a couple of tough matches, he lost to kids who went on to first and third place.”
With an overall mark of 5-2, Jimenez broke into the top 12 in the 120-pound division.
“He didn’t get good seeding, but I was pleased both with his wrestling and how he mentally approached it,” Scott said of the young grappler not letting his tough early round opponents get him down.
Coming home with a medal, Christian Manzo went 7-2 over the two days of competition for a fourth place finish at 152 pounds.
“He beat kids who were supposed to be way better than him,” noted Scott.
Also coming home with some hardware was Marco Mendoza, earning fourth place at 170 pounds.
“Marco went 6-2, it was a really good weekend for him, he beat four or five guys in our section,” Scott explained. “The two matches he lost, one was in overtime, one was by one point.”
As a team, the coach added, the Cougars were a little down going in, coming off the league loss, but they responded to some harsh words and the challenge from the coach to make the best showing possible at the tournament.
“It was a good tournament to see where we’re at,” Scott pointed out. “We just need to be more mature, more consistent.”
Escalon’s girls headed out to the Tokay Tournament this past Saturday, the toughest regular season tournament for them. Julia Casillas went 0-2 at 126 pounds, leading in both before losing, more a victim of her inexperience than anything else.
At 106 pounds, Adela Ley-Han went 3-2 and defeated both the number three and number five seeds, taking fifth place overall, her best tournament this season.
Mikayla Vega earned second place, going 4-1 and losing by a 6-5 decision in the finals.
“That was her first loss to a girl all year,” noted Scott.
This week, the Cougars are scheduled to meet Hilmar in a league dual meet, visiting the Yellowjackets on Wednesday, Jan. 18 as they look to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“I think Hilmar is one of the best teams in league,” Scott said.
Saturday, Jan. 21 the JV team and the Escalon girls go to the Enochs Tournament while the varsity grapplers head to the Gregori Tournament.