Making the most of a line up without two key grapplers, the Cougar wrestlers went into Ripon on Wednesday night, Jan. 20 and handed the host team their first dual meet loss of the season.
“This was a very important meet, both teams went in undefeated,” said head coach Derek Scott.
The Cougars were without Kyle Jimenez, still coming back from injury, and standout Cameron DuBois also was on the mend, though he was cleared to participate.
“We used him as inspiration,” Scott said of DuBois. “If they (other wrestlers) did their job, he didn’t have to wrestle.”
The coach said the varsity team took the message to heart, giving one of their inspirational leaders the night off to continue rehabbing and took care of business, winning by a 28-point margin.
“By far the best we have looked all year, we won 49-21 and that was with forfeiting two weights,” noted Scott.
Among the most pivotal matches, the coach added, was at 106 pounds, with freshman girl Mikayla Vega taking down a Ripon boy on the Indians’ Senior Night.
“She got turned to her back in the first round and got mad,” Scott said of the young grappler. “She came back and beat him up, she pinned him in the third round.”
That battle, with Vega coming all the way back to get the big points when it looked like she would be the one getting pinned, set the tone for the night.
“We had a lot of kids being tough, doing their job for the team,” Scott said.
Rhys Panero, who hasn’t had much mat time this season as he has battled injuries, wrestled Ripon’s “second best guy,” Scott said, coming back to win in overtime at 120 pounds. He won the battle over a wrestler ranked at Masters last season.
Big swing matches for the Cougars, all going in the win column were wrestled by Nick DeWeerd, Hugo Alcala and Livius Seung.
“Those were matches that I felt could go either way,” noted the coach. “This was the most the team has rallied together, it was good to challenge them and have them perform.”
At the JV level in Ripon, the young Cougars lost their first league match in 16 years, falling to the Indians by a 48-33 final.
“We won about the same amount of matches but our losses were all by pins,” Scott explained of the point differential.
Best JV matches on the night were by Adela Ley-Han at 106 pounds, Greg Artiaga at 152 and Erik Espinoza at 220 pounds.
The weekend brought tournament action for the Lady Cougars and the JV team at Enochs.
“All three girls wrestled, Mikayla went 4-1 and took second place at 106 pounds,” Scott said, adding that both Ley-Han and Tristin King also had matches.
For the JV boys, bringing home fourth place honors were Donnie Smith at 126 pounds, Christian Rodriguez at 160 and Alfredo Zarate at 195. Julian Gutierrez, at 152 pounds, finished in third place.
Three Cougars made it into the finals, with all finishing the tournament with second place honors. They were Ethan Krieger at 132 pounds, Izaac Sipma at 138 and Zachary Freeseha at 182 pounds.
Escalon’s varsity squad went to the Gregori Tournament and also had several strong showings, keeping DuBois and Kyle Jimenez out of the line up once more.
In eighth place were David Ryan at 152 pounds and Stephen Mendez at 195.
“Those guys are really improving, David and Stephen, they are looking like varsity wrestlers,” Scott said.
Fabricio Gallo went 4-1 at 145 pounds to craft a third place finish.
“That was the best he has wrestled,” noted Scott.
Daniel Gonzalez, at 220 pounds, went 4-1 and also took third place.
“We had to guys that were champions,” Scott said. “Alex Jimenez (115 pounds) went 4-0 to take first place and he beat a kid from Hilmar for the title in overtime, he had been behind in the match.”
Also battling to a 4-0 mark was Marco Mendoza, a champion at 170 pounds.
“It was fun to see him do well, he works hard, it took him a couple years to get to where he could beat these guys, and now he is beating them,” Scott explained. “I’m really happy for those two.”
Hilmar will come to Escalon tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 27 for a Trans-Valley League dual meet and, with a win, the Cougars would clinch the dual meet part of the league title.
JV action is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. with the varsity action beginning about 7:30 p.m.
This weekend, the varsity has the day off, while the JV and the girls head to Elk Grove.