Eagles dominate at SVC wrestling championships

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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The best Vista del Lago wrestling team in the school’s young history followed its Sierra Valley Conference dual-meet title by winning the league tournament Saturday.

Vista crowned seven league champions and three others placed second in their weight classes at the tournament held at El Dorado High. Both feats are school records, as the Eagles went on to win the title by nearly 50 points. Twelve Vista wrestlers will compete in this weekend’s Division IV tournament at Los Banos High. The top-four wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the Masters Tournament the following weekend in Stockton.

“The tournament went great,” Vista coach Frank Richmond said. “There were some great and exciting matches. A lot of guys were fighting back illness or injury the whole week, but came out with lots of confidence and energy. The whole team wrestled well, pulling off a few upsets and placing themselves in great position to qualify for Masters.”

Antonio Mulqueeny (122), Evan Shelley (140), Troy Grossi (147), Ben Johnson (154), Jacob Sahagun (162), Clayton Wagner (222) and Alex King (Hwt.) claimed league titles for the Eagles. The most-exciting finals match of the group came in the heavyweight division, as King, a sophomore, defeated Zack Smith of Cosumnes Oaks in sudden death overtime. For Vista fans, there was no better way to end the tournament, as it was the final match.

The match turned physical, as King took a head butt underneath the eye, which opened a cut. From there the two heavyweights pushed each other in and outside of the circle.

“We were tying up and near the edge of the mat and I was about to get out and he snapped my head down and ripped my head gear off,” King said. “It was kind of a rash thing to do (on my part), but I pushed him off me. It was nothing big.”

With the match tied at one at the end of regulation, the wrestlers competed in a one-minute overtime session and neither could muster a takedown. After that both wrestlers were given 30 seconds to wrestle on the mat. King kept Smith on the mat, but when Smith tried to do the same to King, the referee called Smith for illegally locking his hands and awarded King a point and the win.

After an argument between the Cosumnes Oaks coaches and the referee, however, the referee retracted the call and the match went into the third overtime.

“That didn’t really matter because Alex didn’t want to win the match that way,” Richmond said. “The big thing was we had to calm him down because it was a physical match. Alex did a good job of staying in it and wrestling with confidence.”

King added, “I was confused about what was going on, but it was already in overtime and I was ready to go so I didn’t care about them taking the point away.”

In the sudden death overtime, if the wrestler on the bottom escaped, he’d win and if he didn’t the wrestler on top would win. King chose bottom and with five seconds remaining, King got to his feet, cut away and faced his opponent to earn the escape point and take the match.

“It was in triple overtime; it was ridiculous,” King said. “It was the longest match I’ve ever wrestled. It was amazing that I won it after all that. It was my biggest win of the season for sure, and everyone went nuts after I won it. It was awesome.”

King said winning the league title gives him confidence for divisionals this weekend, saying he’s ready to go.

Mulqueeny (sophomore) and Sahagun (senior) earned pins in the finals to win their weight classes, Mulqueeny pinning Brad Nantuna of Cosumnes Oaks and Sahagun getting the best of  Ricky Reed of El Dorado. Sahagun, who had finished second twice in this tournament, finally won his first league title.

Johnson, a sophomore, earned a technical fall, 17-2 win over Jeremiah Romero of El Dorado to claim his first league title. Troy Grossi won his second league title with a 15-7 major decision over Matt Cathey of Union Mine. Shelley, a junior, picked up a 7-5 decision over River City’s Jerry Delgado to win the 140-pound weight class, while Wagner, a senior, earned a 4-3 win over Augie Ahuna from Union Mine to take the 222-pound weight class.

Senior Michael Gary (134) and freshmen Dalton Boyer (108) and Trace Fredricks (115) reached the finals, but ended up second. In a battle between defending league champs, Ryan Nantuna earned a 7-6 win over Gary to win at 134 pounds. Boyer dropped a 4-3 decision to River City’s Mike Sexton at 108, while Fredricks lost 15-3 to Josh Garcia of Cosumnes Oaks.

Ian Berklacich placed third at 172 pounds, while Jesse Zhang placed fifth at 128 pounds.

“Anytime you’re an SVC champion, you have a good chance to be top-four at the divisionals tourney and qualify for the Masters meet,” Richmond said. “As a team, our goal is to get seven guys to the Masters tournament, but even our runner-ups have a good shot of qualifying as well if they can improve and fix a few techniques before next weekend.”