Heading to the Rod Gaines Tournament at Tokay High School in early December, several Cougar varsity wrestlers got their seasons started.
“We knew we were going to be young this year with over half of last year’s duals and Division V season championship (team members) graduating,” noted head coach Derek Scott.
Additionally, when the team went to Tokay, football was still going so those wrestlers were unavailable. Finally, there was tough news for one of the team leaders.
“Heartbreaking MRI results coming back that senior and three-time Masters qualifier Christian Rowe is out for the year needing ACL surgery,” Scott said. “Christian is a great kid and a very good teammate and wrestler. I feel bad for him because he was looking forward to getting recruited this year.”
Rowe also played football in the early part of the season before having to stay on the sidelines due to the injury.
At the Gaines Tournament itself, however, the team did very well.
The Cougars had nine of 10 places and eight of 10 medals.
“Looking super tough in his first varsity match was ninth grader Ben Gonzalez. Having his best tournament to date was tenth grader Lavin Gouzenne. He has worked hard. I’m happy to see Lavin start to believe in himself,” noted Scott.
Taking fourth place rounding into shape was Logan Dooley and, in his best tournament so far, was Victor Romero.
“I was happy to see Victor do so well. He’s very tough and has very little experience,” said the coach. “Working super hard taking third place was Christian T. Cruz and David Ingles. I expected Cruz to show great improvement. Ingles, injured early last year was not able to do off season, and has done a remarkable job so far and I am super impressed with the maturity he has shown.”
Getting into the finals before losing to a tough ranked St Mary’s wrestler was three-time Masters qualifier senior JW Mills.
“JW has been banged up early this year and looked the best he’s looked all year in the first round. He will maintain it when he’s able to practice every day,” Scott said.
The lone champion for the Cougars at his first ever varsity tournament was freshman Luca Cerasi.
“Luca looked great, he’s really mentally and physically improved in the last year,” Scott explained. “I was really proud of Luca in the finals. He got slammed a little bit by an older, stronger guy and stayed calm and destroyed him after that. He is currently 7-0 with seven falls.”
Scott has coached Cerasi since he started in the Escalon Wrestling Club at a young age.
“I’ve been excited for him to get into high school for a while. He has a huge upside and I think will have a bright future,” Scott said.
The team was coached in Tokay by Derek Scott, Ray Krieger, Eric Rowe, Clinton Sizuela and Brent Noon, Sr.
The JV boys and the Escalon girls competed at the Bristow Brawl at Atwater High School. In the girls first action of the season, they came away with three medalists.
“Taking third, doing great in her first tournament was ninth grader Ashlyn Paxmon at 121 pounds. Also looking great in her first tournament, taking runner up honors was Angeline Mills at 111 when she only weighed the 106 pound limit,” said Scott. “She’s just tough, goes hard and really wants to win. She has a huge upside and just needs to learn the day to day grind of the high school level.”
Taking home a title in her first tournament was Natalie Martinez at 137 pounds. Scott added that the coaches were extra proud of the grit Martinez showed after injuring her knee in the first match and getting tougher after that.
“You can’t teach that competitiveness, that will make wrestling fun for Natalie,” Scott added.
The JV boys brought home seven medals at the event. Rounding into high school form taking third was Beau Morgan. Escalon had four wrestlers narrowly miss out on titles, taking second place honors. Those wrestlers were Patton Mello impressing in his first action, the greatly improved Cruz Snow, and also really seeing their hard work pay off were Christian Rodriguez and Guadalupe Calderon. Taking home titles for the Cougars were first timer Adam Chaffey and Luke Conradi.
“Adam has been a pleasant surprise. He’s going to be tough real soon. Working with Luke ... he looks great and is ready to move into the varsity brackets,” Scott said.
The teams were coached by Erica Lopez and former EHS great Julia Casillas, Travis James, Ray Scott and Kirt Smith.