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Area grapplers gearing up for postseason
The lone MUSD wrestler to defeat an Oakdale grappler on Wednesday, Jan. 9 was Mantecas Zachary Preito, shown here in the midst of a takedown of Oakdales Quinton Castenada. - photo by Ike Dodson

The CIF State Wrestling Championships are fast-approaching, and most have only a handful of dual meets to prepare for the grueling and pressure-packed weekends that make up the postseason.

The stakes are high. If a wrestler lose two matches at the wrong time, his or her hopes of a state medal can vanish in an instant.

Sixteen high schools reside under the canopy umbrella that is the Morris News Corporation. Six of them reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Team Dual tournament a year ago, while 14 of them (Turlock Christian and Ripon Christian don’t have wrestling programs) combined to send 16 wrestlers to the state meet.

Not much has changed.

Locals were in the mix last weekend at some pretty competitive tournaments. Morris schools sent wrestlers to the Tim Brown Memorial Tournament in Sacramento, the Temecula Valley Battle for the Belt or the Mid Cals Tourney in Gilroy.

Between those results, recent duals and an interesting collection of local match-ups at Escalon’s Lloyd C. Engel tourney earlier this month, Morris teams have no shortage of storylines as the postseason nears.

Let’s dig in.

Tourney Tough: Cody Simerly (Weston Ranch)

With a tough field at 220 pounds, Cody Simerly of Weston Ranch needed strong finishes in each of his four victories to snare an eighth-place medal at the Tim Brown. Simerly was the only Manteca Unified School District wrestler to place; Sierra and East Union were also present. Simerly lost 2-1 and 3-1 decisions Noah Shelgren of Calaveras, ranked seventh in the section.

Weight Watchers

Escalon’s Jonathon Costa (160 pounds), Oakdale’s Tyler Malone (152), Turlock’s Jason Valdovinos (113) and Rafael Herrera (126) are four of the most notable wrestlers who recently dropped to contend at weights that should suit their frames. Ripon’s returning state place winner, Trevor Smith, moved up to 195 pounds, where a bad match and injured ankle forced him to settle for fourth at the Tim Brown.

Overtime: Darkhorses

It wouldn’t be wrestling season if a relatively unknown wrestler didn’t make a stunning late season push. Manteca’s Vincent Bordi rode a late rally to the state title match in 2006. The Lathrop High assistant coach has a similar though much smaller talent in 106-pound Alex Garcia. Other wrestlers to watch for this postseason are Oakdale’s Max Stevens (honorable mention on the section rankings) and East Union’s Peter Barrington. Barrington is an honorable mention as well, but won three straight matches before elimination at the Tim Brown and may just win a Valley Oak League title this year.

Takedown of the Week: Turlock

Seventy-two teams gathered at Mid Cals. None of those teams had a better showing than Turlock, which won a team championship, snared seven medals and sent five Bulldogs to finals matches.

Reversal of the Week: Tyler Lawrence (Escalon)

In just two weeks, Escalon junior Tyler Lawrence has beaten or placed higher than three wrestlers listed higher than him on the California Wrestling Newsletter state rankings. The 132-pound sensation (ranked 22nd) finished ahead of Folsom’s Josh Lazaro (16th) and Ponderosa’s Jimmy Scarr (13th) at the Engel, then upset Wyatt Wyckoff of Paradise (ranked 17th) before finishing second at the Tim Brown.

Escape of the Week: Hondo Arpoika (Oakdale)

A high seed into the prestigious Temecula Valley invite put plenty of pressure on the Oakdale senior, but he came through with three big wins in the consolation bracket to hold up his No. 5 seed. Arpoika won a 3-2 match to ensure a top-six finish and snared a 3-1 win in the fifth-place match. He was Oakdale’s top placer.

Dual-icious: Central Valley and Ceres

Central Valley (3-1) will host crosstown Ceres (3-1) on Jan. 30, and it should be a dandy of a dual to potentially decide the second and final seed from the Western Athletic Conference into the section’s dual tourney. Ceres made the trip last year, but Central Valley recently won nine matches to oust Pacheco 51-27 and should sport a full lineup.