East Union earned the distinction of being the best of the rest in the Valley Oak League in its final double dual of the regular season Wednesday at Dalben Center.
After getting waxed by longtime juggernaut Oakdale 55-18, the Lancers honored their five seniors with a brief ceremony and quickly dispatched Weston Ranch 72-12 to secure second place along with their first Sac-Joaquin Section Team Duals berth under 10th-year coach A.J. Reindel.
The Team Duals take place Feb. 4 at Lincoln of Stockton. Joining Oakdale and East Union in the eight-team Division III bracket are the top two teams from the Capital Athletic League, San Joaquin Athletic Association and Solano County Athletic Conference.
“It shows that hard work pays off,” Reindel said. “It’s very rewarding for these guys. It’s another weigh-in, it’s more matches — we don’t get to have that week off like we have been. It’s exciting for them to get to compete as a team again.”
Before the Lancers (6-1) could celebrate their feat, they were given a clinic by the mighty Mustangs, the section’s second-ranked team according to CalGrappler.com. They boast seven wrestlers who are in the top two of their weight classes in the SJS rankings.
“I don’t like saying the VOL is a battle for second place but it kind of is,” Reindel said. “Oakdale is just leaps and bounds above. Steve Strange does a heck of a job over there of turning his kids into the wrestlers we’re trying to beat. We’re not trying to train our guys to beat average wrestlers, we want to beat state-ranked guys because we want to make it state.
“We hung with them for a little while. Our lowerweights did pretty well but their upperweights took it to us. I just don’t have as much experience in my upperweights as I do at the lowerweights. We competed with them, I thought. The scoreboard shows that it’s one-sided, but some of the matches were pretty fun.”
The Lancers were given free points at the start with Oakdale forfeiting at 108 and 128, but they did earn a win at the end in what was the most highly-anticipated match of the night.
East Union has a ranked wrestler of its own in Jaysen Reindel, No. 4 among section heavyweights. He squared off with a familiar and friendly foe in Matt Kleldgaard, a football standout whom Reindel previously defeated twice to take fifth place at the Flo Reno Worlds last April.
“He’s a great wrestler and is incredibly strong,” the coach’s son said of Kleldgaard. “He has a lot in his tank and is a well-conditioned wrestler. Great guy, too.”
The two giants battled to a scoreless stalemate in the first period, with Reindel playing it more defensively than he is accustomed to. The pace quickened toward the end of the second, with Reindel taking him down with 22 seconds left. Kleldgaard then wriggled free off the mat for an escape before the buzzer but still trailed, 2-1.
Reindel continued to patiently stalk his opponent in the third round, and with about 30 seconds remaining he shot at the tiring Kleldgaard’s legs for another takedown and eventually the pin in 5 minutes, 38 seconds.
“I knew that he was tired,” Reindel said. “He was standing up tall all match and he got comfortable with me not shooting. Once his coaches stopped yelling ‘watch the shot’ I just knew.”
In the second match, Reindel made quicker work of Weston Ranch’s Jacob Tatupu, winning by fall in 36 seconds.
Other Lancers winners against Weston Ranch were Enrique Mendoza (126, 1:22), Jason Betlej (132, 0:57), Joe Luna (145, 0:27), Ruben Gallegos (160, 0:37), Levi Huffman (172, 1:04), Nic Sims (182, 0:28) and Devonta Scott (195, 1:26).
Adrian Angulo got the lone win on the mat for the Cougars, stopping Brandon Bean in 4:21 in the 138-pound match.
Manteca 58, Kimball 9
Michael Blades (8-1 decision), Jobdir Mahal (second-round pin) and Denovious Jordan (second-round pin) provided some of the highlights for host Manteca at Winter Gym.
The most thrilling match came at the junior varsity level, as Joseph Farrell escaped with a 10-7 win.