ESCALON — Escalon appears to be the class of the Trans-Valley League once again.
The defending champion proved so in emphatic fashion Wednesday night, manhandling a solid Ripon squad, 54-18. It was the league opener for the Indians (0-1, 6-3 overall), who had a bye last week.
Escalon has reached six of the last seven championship matches of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV team duals and is a good bet to vie for a title once again with several standouts returning.
“Tough kids, tough coach and tough program,” Ripon coach Glen White lauded. “It was not our night. There were a few matches that should have gone differently but we knew they’re good. That’s a strong team and we just have to get better.”
Tristan Smith, the No. 5 ranked heavyweight in the section according to Cal Grappler, had one of Ripon’s few highlights Wednesday, though he wasn’t entirely pleased with his effort. Going into his matchup with Daniel Gonzalez, Escalon had racked up four straight pinfall victories for a commanding 33-6 lead. Jake Lawrence (182) clocked the fastest pin of the night in 28 seconds during that streak, which was capped by standout A.J. Camarena, ranked sixth in the SJS at 195 but wrestling at 220 for the dual.
Smith looked to stop the bleeding for his team but ran into trouble himself in the final seconds of the opening period when Gonzalez scored a takedown and near fall for a 4-0 lead. Smith chipped away, first scoring with an escape in the second round and later finishing off his opponent with 38 seconds to go in the match after a reversal.
“I knew I was better than the kid but I don’t feel like I wrestled my best today,” Smith said. “I should have won in the second round.”
Donovan Fontillas kept Ripon’s short-lived momentum rolling with a 1-minute, 50-second pin of Troy Bedell in the 106-pound match to close the Indians in, 33-18. Rhys Panero (113) outpointed Matthew Fisher 6-1 to clinch the win for Escalon with three matches remaining.
Javier Hernandez (145) earlier secured Ripon’s first points with a 1:15 pinning of Trenton Busch in the second bout. The Indians otherwise had a rough start, dropping three of the first four matches by a combined eight points in decisions. Angelo Baciocco (152) came up short 8-6 against Cameron Dubois in one of the night’s most spirited contests.
“Some of them wrestled really well, even in losses,” White said. “I thought Angelo wrestled well, as did Matthew. Both of them faced really tough kids but looked good.”
Ripon also lost the junior varsity match, 51-30.