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Johnson first Vista wrestler to win divisional title

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Vista del Lago sophomore Ben Johnson is the first wrestler from his school to win a Division IV wrestling championship.

Competing in the 154-pound weight class, Johnson won all three of his matches over the weekend, the first two by pin, to claim the title, defeating Marcus Carrillo of Los Banos in the finals, 7-3. Johnson had lost to Carrillo two weeks earlier at the section team tournament, but this time got the best of him, despite dealing with a sprained ankle which he suffered during the second period of the match.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Johnson. “I’m really happy to be the first from Vista to do it.”

Johnson took an early lead and stayed in front the entire match, but rolled his ankle while trying to avoid a takedown at the edge of the mat near the end of the second period. When the two wrestled before, Johnson was dealing with a shoulder injury. Now he rolled his ankle and had to use all of his injury time to tape it up.

“It really didn’t bother me too much,” Johnson said. “It hurt more after the match than during it.”

Johnson is looking forward to a return trip to the Masters Tournament. Last year he won one match and lost two and this year he’s hoping for much more.

“I really want to go to state,” Johnson said. “I hope my ankle heals up and that I get a good draw. The key will be wrestling hard, staying in good position and not making any stupid moves.”

For the second straight year, Johnson’s teammate Troy Grossi will join him at Masters. Grossi was upset in his first match at divisionals, losing to Jose Ruelas of Livingston, 8-3, but then rebounded to win four straight matches to place third. Grossi got on a roll by pinning Najee Benafghoul of River City and Jose Mattez of East Union, before a major decision over David Cisneros of Ceres. In the match for third, Grossi got by Central Catholic’s Devon Kelly by decision.

“Troy did not get discouraged and battled back,” Richmond said. “He’s now a three-time Masters qualifier.”

Unfortunately, no other Vista wrestler finished in the top-four and failed to advance. Dalton Boyer (108), Antonio Mulqueeny (122), Michael Gary (134), Evan Shelley (140) and Jacob Sahagun (162) all placed fifth, one spot away from qualifying.

“The weekend didn’t go as well as we had hoped, but we did end up crowning our first divisional champion,” Richmond said. “Our goal was to qualify seven wrestlers to Masters and we were a few matches away from doing that. Our focus now is to finally get our first state qualifier as Ben and Troy work to get it done this weekend.”

To qualify for state, Johnson and Grossi must finish in the top-seven of their weight class.