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Postseason starts with VOL Tourney

EU’s Woodall looking to keep recent heavyweight tradition alive

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Postseason starts with VOL Tourney

East Union junior heavyweight Devon Woodall hopes to carry over his success from non-conference tournaments and dual meets to Saturday's Valley Oak League Championships at Weston Ranch High.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED February 11, 2010 2:28 a.m.
Manteca Unified has been well represented in the heavyweight division in recent years, and East Union High junior Devon Woodall will look to keep the trend going in the Valley Oak League Wrestling Championships Saturday at Weston Ranch.

Manteca High’s Zach Williams claimed the VOL’s heavyweight title last year and was preceded by 2008 champ Rohman Alexander, a Weston Ranch alumnus. Sierra grad John Ivey mounted a surprising surge in the postseason tournaments in 2007 starting with a runner-up finish to then-Oakdale standout Martin Patron in the conference finale.

Now it’s East Union’s turn to take the spotlight in the 285-pound division, where Woodall is undefeated in league duals while holding an impressive 27-4 overall record.

Woodall is one of just four wrestlers in league not from defending conference and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Section Team Duals champion Oakdale to go into the tournament as a top seed. Weston Ranch’s Chris Contreras (28-9) is No. 1 at 189.

Woodall qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament as a sophomore. He was eliminated after two matches, but just getting there was a surprise — even to coach A.J. Reindel.

Woodall won’t surprise anyone this time, not after winning tournaments hosted by Bear Creek and Escalon, taking second at Stagg’s Demolition Day and finishing fifth in the competitive Rumble in the Jungle at Pitman.

He established himself as the big man to beat in league by edging out Oakdale’s Tim House on points during a double-dual meet.

“Getting (to Masters) just helped me see what the competition is like,” Woodall said. “There’s a lot more pressure this year, I just have to continue to use my size and my speed to my advantage.”

Woodall is one of many area wrestlers expected qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Tournament — the next of three qualifying tournaments leading up to the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships — held at East Union Feb. 19-20. A top-four finish in each weight class will guarantee a berth, and the best five placers at divisionals go on to Masters.

Woodall’s senior teammate Marco Castaneda is the area’s lone returning champion with Sierra’s Oscar Castro (189) and Williams graduating last year.

Castaneda claimed the 119-pound championships in both league and divisionals. Now at 125, he is a perfect 8-0 in the VOL and 27-8 overall but did not square off with Oakdale’s heralded Cody Sleeman and top-seeded Curtis Hulstine of Ceres during the dual season.
Castaneda hopes to improve on last season’s disappointing finish in which he went 1-2 at Masters after such a promising start to the postseason.

“I started training a lot harder, going to the gym more,” Castaneda said. “I really want to make that next step. I want to get a good seed (for divisionals) and give myself an opportunity to do well there.”

Jason Cortez (130), Stevyn Teeple (135) and Parsa Davari (140) are also expected to make repeat appearances at divisionals, and all are capable of winning individual titles. East Union returns the same core group that placed fifth in the Division IV Tournament point standings.

Sierra junior Alex Nuanez (30-5, 21 pins) is ranked fourth in the section among 171-pounders according to The California Wrestler despite campaigning at 189 for most of the season. Second-ranked A.C. Brown of Oakdale is the league favorite at 171. If there were a main event, a Nuanez-Brown final would be it.

Sierra sophomore Austin Soto (130), Aiden Foster (152) and Ray Widmer (215) are also looking to get back to the divisional tournament.

Junior Casey Benson (145) earned a fifth-place alternate spot for Manteca in 2009. The Buffaloes are young but could produce surprising results from the likes of other juniors such as Gabe Rellamas (140), Evan Sharp (189) and Sean Cerveny (160).

Weston Ranch coach Pat King thinks his team can realistically take eight to divisionals after qualifying an area-high 10, plus an alternate, a season ago.

The Cougars have a shot to boast multiple titlists. Travis Bowen (140), who is 33-6 on the year, and Contreras were both runner-up finishers in the 2009 league tournament.

Junior Mark Maynard made school history for Lathrop High last year becoming its first-ever divisional qualifier, but he will run into a tough field of 152-pounders on Saturday.

Lathrop coach Dimos Birakos, who led the Spartans to a share of the junior varsity league championship, has tough decisions to make, especially at 119. Either Luis Oregel or Andrew Aquino, both sophomores and two of the Spartans’ best pound-for-pound wrestlers, will be forced to make another weight. 
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