TRACY – With a one-point escape standing between a pair of evenly matched Valley Oak League wrestlers’ race towards a championship, one of the two was able to land it. Sierra’s Lucas Widmer was phenomenal on his road to the 160-poud title match, but it would be No. 1 seed James Simerley of Weston Ranch who would walk away from Kimball High with the title.
Simerley brought the lone championship back to Weston Ranch, where the Cougars grappling group earned 11 berths into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Tournament, most of any of the area programs. The East Union Lancers will send seven on to the next level, Manteca High will send six, while Lathrop will have two and Sierra landed four, with three of those dropping championship matches.
Widmer-Simerley was arguably the championships’ most exciting match, getting three rounds of techniques, scheming and planning for the prize. It never seemed as if Simerley’s early one-point escape would be the difference, but the savvy Weston Ranch veteran made it stand.
“James has to believe in himself on his feet,” Cougars head coach Pat King said. “He can’t go into matches and win 1-0. He’s really good on his feet and he has to believe in his takedowns. When he starts believing in his take downs a little bit more he’ll be OK.”
Widmer had nothing to hang his head about in defeat, sparking his Sierra mates with a quality run when it was least expected. Widmer, William Fishburn (126-pound) and Albert Loaiza (138-pound) all made it to the championship of their respective weight classes.
“Lucas’ only problem is he can’t get up from the bottom,” Sierra head coach Alex Nuanez said. “He’s having a little trouble from the bottom, but he fought him hard. Simerley is a good wrestler and we have a lot of respect for that young man right there.
“They’ve battled twice now, we did OK.”
The Lancers saw its defining moment in the worst of fashions, as 285-pound hopeful Josh Byrd saw his season come to an end with an injury early in the tourney. The loss ends Byrd’s senior year run and a quality run in the East Union wrestling room. EU had three third place finishers in Gerardo Cuevas and Richard Whitescarver. Peter Barrington also landed a third place finish, leading a sturdy pack to train for divisional.
“Seven is good, our heavyweight would have been there but he got hurt,” Lancers head coach A.J. Reindel said. “I am not thrilled because we only brought nine, I would’ve liked to bring 11 or 12 to qualify.
“It’s not bad, but I was real happy with all the thirds and the fifths; they had to wrestle for it and they won.”
Manteca High probably put together the area’s biggest surprise, landing six berths to the divisional and getting a runner-up finish from Jacob Burttram (132-pound) and a pair of third place finishes (Daniel Clemons, 195-pound and Zach Prieto, 152-pound).
“It’s a huge day for us,” Manteca head coach John Vazquez said. “A lot of guys stepped up today and it started with Burttram. He stepped up and he wasn’t even supposed to do anything according to the seeding meeting. But with what happened here today with him beating Oakdale (Jake Jacobson) in the first match.
“He really set the tone for everybody else.”
Lathrop’s Omar Guzman battled valiantly but fell to Oakdale’s Frank Trent in a 7-1 loss in the 170-pound final. Guzman is poised to get back in the room and fine tune everything for another push in the divisional showdowns. Teammate Alex Ochoa (106-pound) will join Guzman at the divisional. Josh Suarez (113-pound) and Josh Lewis (195-pound) advanced as alternates for the Spartans.
“I felt good,” Guzman said. “It felt good making it to the finals. Being the only one on my team to get to the championship, I felt like I represented for Lathrop.”
The Division-IV wrestling tournament will be held Feb. 15-16 at Los Banos High.