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Eagles gain experience at Masters Tournament

By: Matt Long
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Vista del Lago’s wrestling team didn’t have much success at the Masters Wrestling Championships in Stockton, but the fact that the burgeoning program qualified seven wrestlers to the meet, four of which will return next season, was a big step in the right direction. The team’s three seniors to qualify for the tournament had high aspirations to place well and advance to the state tournament, only to come up short. Chris Chovanec, the school’s first four-year wrestler, capped off his high school career by winning one of three matches at 140 pounds. Chovanec opened with a first-period pin, but then lost to the eventual champion from Del Oro, Austin Branum, by way of a second-period pin. Chovanec didn’t recover from the loss, as he then lost to Daniel Garcia in the consolation bracket, 3-2. “Chris had victories over several top-eight ranked wrestlers from the section and was looking good but he didn’t rebound from the loss to Branum,” Vista coach Frank Richmond said. Like Chovanec, Jordan Bailey, competing at 152 pounds, won his first match, defeating Dillon Mueller, 8-3, but then lost to Tyler Thomas, 6-4. Once in the consolation bracket, Bailey was eliminated following a 3-1 loss to Oak Ridge’s Alex Diaz. Mueller went on to place fourth in the tournament, while Thomas placed second. “Jordan is a two-year wrestler who was having a great season,” Richmond said. “He came into the tournament with great spirits and energy and won his first match against the third-ranked wrestler in the section. His next match was against the fourth-ranked wrestler from Pioneer, and he led 4-0 going into the third period before giving up a stalling point, an escape, takedown and two-point nearfall in the last 30 seconds to lose 6-4. He lost his next match to Diaz of Oak Ridge, who he had major-decisioned early in the year.” Jaleon Reid, competing at 135 pounds, also had a strong year in his first varsity season, but things didn’t go his way at Masters as he dropped both of his matches by fall. “Jaleon’s inexperience caught up with him,” Richmond said. “He had beaten several ranked wrestlers throughout the season and we felt he had the potential to place in the top-eight.” Vista’s underclassmen also struggled. Daniel Rodriguez (119) and Troy Grossi (125) each picked up a win at the tournament, while Austin Rompel (103) and Jacob Sahagun (145) went 0-2. “I was very happy with the fact that we sent seven wrestlers to the Masters meet,” Richmond said. “That is a record for us and we feel the team has made huge improvements in the two years that I and the rest of my coaching staff have been here. Our seniors were disappointed with their performances, but I feel they have more to prove in the sport, as all three are interested in continuing on and possibly wrestling at the junior college level. “All four of our returning Masters qualifiers are sophomores and will be training hard in the offseason to try and become Vista’s first state qualifiers next year.”