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Wrestling Cougars Claim Section Banner
In a tough match up, varsity wrestler Erik Espinoza was taken down by his Mountain House opponent in Wednesdays home meet, closing out the regular season TVL schedule. Marg Jackson/The Times


After a solid defeat of Mountain House in the regular season finale on Wednesday night at home, the Escalon Cougar wrestlers had an even better weekend, claiming the Section title and qualifying all three of their female wrestlers to the Masters Meet.

Recognizing 10 seniors on Feb. 3, head coach Derek Scott said they all got to represent the team, taking the mats at either the JV or varsity level.

The JV Cougars defeated Mountain House 60-6, finishing off the Trans-Valley League campaign at 5-1, second place in league.

“They will compete at the JV TVL meet for individual honors on Saturday,” Scott said.

The varsity, meanwhile, took a 70-9 decision in the finale against the visiting Mustangs.

“It was a nice way for the seniors to cap off their dual meet career at home,” noted the coach.

Seniors recognized prior to the match were Greg Artiaga, John Beaver, Justin Branco, Jacob Broome, Trenton Busch, Cameron DuBois, Fabricio Gallo, Daniel Gonzalez, Kyle Jimenez and Tristin King.

Escalon’s girls went to Enochs on Friday and Saturday for the Southwest Regionals, Scott said, with the top 8 in each weight class qualifying to the Masters.

“All three of them qualified,” Scott said of his trio of female wrestlers. “At 101 pounds, freshman Mikayla Vega went 4-1 and placed third, Adela Ley-Han went 3-3 and was sixth at 106, and in her first year of wrestling, Tristin King at 123 pounds, went 3-2 for fifth place.”

The girls have this weekend off, but are busy preparing for the Masters, Feb. 19 and 20, at McNair in Stockton.

The varsity boys went to team sections on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Lincoln and went in as the number two seed overall in Division V, getting a first round bye.

“In the second round we wrestled Sonora, that was in in semifinals and I thought we did good, we got a 49-24 win over Sonora,” Scott said.

As the coach anticipated, that put the Cougars into the finals against Calaveras – a team they lost to badly at last year’s event and a team the coach wasn’t sure they could get past. But, for the Escalon squad, they had different ideas.

“We ended up wrestling the best dual I have ever been a part of, we won 36-30 to win the Section title,” Scott said. “We replaced five starters we thought we would have, we had five or six kids that had never wrestled before.”

In a year where Scott felt the squad would be rebuilding, they instead blossomed, and found ways to earn the key wins when they had to, several grapplers putting their best efforts together for the meet on Saturday.

“To be able to win the sections with that group, it was the best I have ever seen a group of kids do, getting the most out of their ability,” said the coach.

Highlight matches came from Trenton Busch and Rhys Panero, Scott said.

“For Trenton, it was by far the best he has ever wrestled, he won both his matches on Saturday,” the coach said of his 138-pounder. “Another key was Rhys Panero, winning at 126.”

Panero, who has battled injuries this season, had to go against some tough competitors at Lincoln.

Four or five question marks Scott had going in proved to be wins for Escalon in the finale, as they defeated Calaveras by the 36-30 final to bring home the blue banner.

“I thought building momentum for us was Marco Mendoza, winning and pinning his guy at 170 pounds,” Scott said.

It came down to the last couple of matches in the action-packed banner battle.

“We needed (heavyweight) Danny Gonzalez and Alex Jimenez to win,” Scott explained. “Danny was down 5-0, literally put on his back in the first round and was saved by the bell … then he pinned his guy in the third.”

Tied at 30-30, the match hung in the balance with freshman Alex Jimenez taking the mats. And while the 113-pound Jimenez isn’t the most experienced wrestler on the team, he handled the pressure like a veteran, said Scott, taking control early and winning by pin in the second round.

That gave the Cougars the 6-point win and the Section title.

“By far this was the best everyone has wrestled and they were together, cheering for each other,” Scott said.

Next up for the Cougars is a trip to the Trans-Valley League meet, slated at Modesto Christian on Saturday, Feb. 13. They can claim the league title outright with a strong showing there, then get ready to host the Divisionals at EHS on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 19 and 20.