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Three Cougars Claim Championships At Wrestling Divisionals
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Three champions and a runner-up finish as a team at the SJS Division V wrestling divisionals was the result of two days of hard work, Feb. 14 and 15, for the Cougars. Photo Contributed

Coming off the Trans-Valley League tournament, the Escalon wrestling squad had 14 wrestlers qualify to wrestle on Friday, Feb. 14 in the opening day of the two-day Sac-Joaquin Section Divisionals in Division V hosted at Rosemont High School. The top four in each weight class earned the right to continue on to the Masters Meet at Stockton Arena.

“It started off on a bad note when one decided not to attend for a family fun day,” head coach Derek Scott noted of Divisionals. “Everyone on our varsity line-up had earned a spot as a qualifier or alternate. It was very frustrating but the team must move on and make the best of any adversity they face. As I tell the team every week, you can only control your actions and do the best job you are capable of and the overall results will take care of themselves, and they did.”

Of the 13 that wrestled for EHS, 12 earned points for the team. Scoring but not medaling and having their seasons end were Jorge Gonzalez, Owen Nash, Preston Ball, and finishing in the top eight having by far his best tournament at EHS was Sebastian Snow.

“Sebastian went 3-2, it really helped Snow be around the varsity guys this week,” said Scott.

Medaling but having their seasons end on a good note were, taking sixth place at heavyweight was ‘Big Sean’ Vassallo.

“Sean really bounced back and showed what kind of man he was this week. He had a tough TVL, but came back and went 5-3, lost 1-0 to the eventual champion and was tough every match,” Scott said. “Also looking really good in just missing out on a Masters berth was Luis Garcia.”

Garcia, a sophomore, went 4-2 at 112 and took fifth place.

“Luis fought hard the whole time, bleeding everywhere in the semis, having a great match in the blood round. Luis just had one or two bad breaks in the blood round that cost him,” explained Scott.

EHS had six wrestlers qualifying to move on to Masters, set for Feb. 21 and 22.

Taking a hard fight enduring a physically exhausting weekend earning a spot to Masters with a fourth place finish at 106 was freshman JW Mills.

“JW just flat out worked his butt off all weekend. It is really cool as a coach to get to watch a kid beat better wrestlers consistently because he simply cares more than they do and wins the “who wants it more” positions,” Scott noted. “You know JW is giving you everything he has. Sometimes I have to yell to the ref to watch for an injury because JW will never whine himself.”

Taking a grinding third place finish was senior 170-pounder Manny Diaz.

“Manny has been one of our most consistent guys all year. Manny’s attack isn’t very complicated; stay in your face and push on you until you fade. Manny just missed out on making the finals and wore everybody else down going 5-1. They just weren’t willing to sacrifice the work it would take to beat Manny,” said Scott, adding the senior is a pleasure to coach.

EHS had four finalists and a total of three champions. Taking an impressive second place going 4-1 at 126 was freshman Christian Rowe.

“Christian did an absolutely awesome job this week bouncing back after taking fourth at league to beat in back to back matches a 12th grader that was a returning Masters qualifier and in the semi’s he beat two time returning divisionals champion Bargas from Hughson, who had beaten Christian already three times. He has really worked hard to clean up his junior high flaws and become a really solid high school wrestler. I was really proud of his match against Bargas, he executed the game plan perfectly.”

The first of the EHS Champions was Aidan Krieger. The junior, a three time Masters qualifier, went 5-0 at 132 pounds.

“He came from behind against an impressive athletic Bret Harte kid in a great match in the finals. Aidan hasn’t lost a match since Jan. 10 and has really been working hard to clean his flaws with coaches,” Scott said.

In his corner are Scott, his father Ray Krieger and his uncle, three-time state placer and two-time Division II All-American, former EHS standout Curtis Schurkamp.

At 152 pounds, going 5-0 and pinning his way through the tournament was three-time Masters qualifier Garrett Nash.

“Garrett dominated the field and looked great,” said Scott. “The final champion for EHS of the night was 160-pound senior and two-time divisional champion and Masters placer going 5-0 dominating all five matches was Brad Hagglund. Brad has really been a leader this year and has worked hard. We are all good enough just have to believe in ourselves this week.”

EHS was leading the team scores all the way to the third to last match with Calaveras finally overtaking the Cougars at the end. Calaveras took first place as a team at Divisionals with 215 points with EHS second with 211 and Hilmar third with 199. Assisting Scott at the Divisionals and earning his thanks were coaches Ray Scott, Ray Krieger, Eric Rowe and Jeremy Mills.

“We finally beat two-time section champs Hilmar for the first time in two years. To be ahead of Calaveras, the defending four-time champions and current Division 4 champions returning 11 starters from last year with us having four freshmen and five first year varsity wrestlers in the line-up, I couldn’t be prouder of the boys,” said Scott.