FIGHT to the FINISH: SJS Wrestlers prepare for a grueling season finish in the CIF playoffs

By: Ike Dodson of the Auburn Journal
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Feb. 6-7: SJS Girls Masters

Feb. 7: SJS Team Duals

Feb. 12: SFL Championships

Feb. 14: PVL Championships

Feb. 20-21: SJS Divisionals

Feb. 27-28: SJS Masters

March 6-7: CIF State Finals


“We still have the goal of qualifying 10 to state and winning the SJS Masters. We have a lot of work to do, and we must continue to improve if we want to accomplish our goals.”

- Dave Sanchez, Del Oro wrestling coach

Wrestlers are crazy.

They starve themselves to make weight, slap themselves to get pumped and admire an ear pulverized into a cauliflower salad like it’s a piece of art.

Wrestlers smell like wet shoes that took a bath inside a roller derby gym bag.

They use bleach, color and clippers to recreate hairstyles only fitting for a “Mad Max” remake and complete the funky outfit with headphones, slippers, pajama pants and a giant backpack.

It’s an awkward ensemble of sights and smells, but in a gymnasium, with a mat underfoot, wrestlers are right at home.

The 2015 California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships slated for March 6 and 7 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield will mark the 43rd time that the state’s best high school grapplers have met under one roof to wage war.

It’s a bewildering affair stretched across 14 weight classes, completing the final weekend of the individual postseason. Some wrestlers will travel to national tournaments later in the season, but California’s four-week wrestling postseason has no comparison.

Wrestlers who get injured, fail to make weight, miss a weigh-in or get stuck at the wrong time will suddenly be finished. The fortunate ones, skilled and talented, excellent on their feet and poetic in a scramble will build a sensational path to the state finals, for a shot at true glory.

For Placer County wrestlers, the path reveals itself Feb. 12 and 14 at league championship tournaments.

Golden Eagles ready to fly

Eighty-five wrestling teams competing in the Tim Brown Memorial Classic fanned out across the weights Friday and Saturday at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.

In all, 112 wrestlers came away with medal-round hardware, though Del Oro stole 10 such honors. The Golden Eagles (193 points) finished second in the team standings, just behind Buchanan (217.5) and ahead of rival Folsom (192.5).

Del Oro’s narrow advantage over Folsom marked the third time this season the squad has out-pointed the Bulldogs, though Folsom got revenge at home by winning last week’s Sierra Foothill League dual meet.

Since only one SFL team moves on to the team dual postseason, Del Oro has no shot a rematch.

“We won't get the chance to dual Folsom again this year,” Del Oro coach Dave Sanchez said. “But we have more opportunities in the postseason to beat them. We can beat them in our divisionals, we can beat them in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters and we can finish ahead of them at state.

“We have a lot of season left. As a matter of fact, the most important part of our season is coming up.”

Del Oro returns to Folsom Feb. 12 to begin the first real step of the individual postseason, the SFL Championships. The top five wrestlers in each weight move on to Del Oro for the DIAA championships a week later. Central California Conference and Tri-City Athletic League programs will also be represented. There, the top-eight place winners move on to Masters Feb. 27-28 at the Stockton Arena. Only the top six at Masters will qualify for the state meet in Bakersfield a week later.

“We still have the goal of qualifying 10 to state and winning the SJS Masters,” Sanchez said. “After placing 10 at the Tim Brown, it’s looking like we might be able to do just that.

“We have a lot of work to do, and we must continue to improve if we want to accomplish our goals.”

As was the case in their Folsom dual, Del Oro wrestled in the Tim Brown without the help of returning state qualifier Zach Ruybal, ranked No. 13 in California by The California Wrestling Newsletter.

Chase Patterson was still seventh at Ruybal’s 132-pound weight class. The Golden Eagles also got medals from Landon McBride (second at 120), Jansen Englebrecht (third, 126), Clay Shropshire (seventh, 138), Dustin Edwards (sixth, 145), Tanner Robison (second, 152), Ryan Ojeda (eighth, 160) Hunter Halverson (fifth, 195), Pablo Miller (fifth, 220) and Saul Meneses sixth, 285).

Del Oro could have snared the Tim Brown title by wrestling to expectations. Only two Golden Eagles matched their seeds (McBride and Engelbrecht). Halverson and Patterson finished a podium step higher than they were expected, but Shropshire, Edwards, Robison, Ojeda Miller and Meneses combined to finish 14 placements lower than they were seeded.

The Colonel prepares for war

Placer senior Will Thornton, who earned his “The Colonel” moniker by finishing opponents with a “chicken wing," landed his best performance of the season Friday and Saturday in Sacramento.

Thornton dropped from his 195-pound weight class and made the 182-pound finals at the Tim Brown Memorial Classic. Thornton pinned four consecutive opponents, including state No. 15 Isaiah Weathers of Florin, to reach the finals. Weathers had beat Thornton earlier this season.

In the title match, Thornton was pinned by Buchanan talent Cade Belshay. It was a rough ending, but Thornton’s torrid pace through the bracket was a big reason small-school Placer finished 30th in the field of 85.

Thornton is a top-three SJS wrestler at 182. He was seventh in the same weight class at last year’s SJS Masters and won a match at state.

Placer wrestles its Pioneer Valley League finals Feb. 14 at Center of Antelope. The top four in each weight will face the best wrestlers from the Solano Valley Conference and Western Athletic Conference the following week during the D4 Championships at Foothill. The four best D4 wrestler qualify for Masters.

Placer has a good shot at sending seniors Josh Mason (132) and Jack Morris (160) to Masters. Mason was 3-2 with two pins at the Tim Brown, but he ended two wins short of the medal round. Morris was 2-2 at 160.

Email Ike Dodson at Follow him on Twitter, @Ike_Dodson.