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Wrestling Cougars Close Out Successful Season
Escalons Mikayla Vega, far left, is the first female Cougar wrestler to bring home a State Meet medal, taking fifth place honors at the state competition in Visalia. - photo by Photo Contributed

While there won’t be any Cougars heading to the State Meet this year for the boys, the Escalon girls have their first ever state medalist following competition this past weekend.

Mikayla Vega came home from the Girls State Meet in Visalia with a fifth place medal, securing the first medal for Escalon in the sport.

“She lost her first match but then reeled off five wins in a row,” head coach Derek Scott said, noting that coaches Atom Garcia and Bryan Toy were in Vega’s corner during the state meet. “It took a lot of guts to bounce back.”

Shaking off the opening round loss, Vega battled her way to the medal stand. Along the way, she pinned the number two ranked wrestler in the state in the fifth/sixth place match.

She went 6-2 overall during the weekend, said Scott, and closed out her season with an amazing 52-5 record.

“There was a tremendous amount of pressure on her, this was the third time she has been to the State Meet,” added Scott.

The third time was the charm, however, as Vega came home with the state medal.

“All her losses this year were to girls ranked first and third in the state,” the coach noted.

She wrestled at 106 pounds for the Cougars at the state competition.

Meanwhile, the Cougar boys were at the Stockton Arena for the Masters Meet and came away with one medal for the weekend.

Senior Rhys Panero, wrestling at 138 pounds, went 3-1 on the first day to set himself up well for day two.

“In his first match on the second day, he got a 10-3 in over the number four qualifier, probably the best I have seen him wrestle,” Scott explained.

But in the match for the top eight, he re-injured his shoulder, a nagging injury that kept him out of the line up early in the season.

“He was ahead 11-7 with about 30 seconds left,” Scott said.

But a late move by his opponent saw Panero get taken down and pinned in the final 10 seconds, which still got him on the podium but didn’t allow him to wrestle for the chance to continue to the State Meet.

Panero went 4-2 overall and injury defaulted after the match that earned him the eighth place medal, Scott making a coach’s decision to not risk further injury.

Top six finishers at the Masters advance to state.

“We had some guys showing signs that they could qualify,” Scott said, but the breaks didn’t go the Cougars’ way.

Wrestlers bowing out on day one were Aidan Krieger at 120 pounds, Livius Seung at 132, David Ryan at 160 and Stephen Mendez at 195 pounds.

Krieger, a freshman, looks to return next year with a vengeance and Seung, after a difficult divisionals, had a tough draw to start the Masters.

“David had some winnable matches and Stephen, his two losses were by a total of two points including one in quadruple overtime,” Scott said.

Wrestlers getting to the second day along with Panero included senior Jake Lawrence, who went 2-1 at 182 pounds and also re-injured a knee during the competition, a flare up of an injury that had kept him off the mats for parts of two seasons.

“It still was a great season for him,” Scott said.

Junior Alex Jimenez closed out his season with a 3-2 mark at 126 pounds and took a 1-0 loss in his final match, falling just short of the podium.

“He lost to two guys going to state,” Scott said.

Despite no state qualifiers this season, the Cougars had a successful year on the mats, said Scott.