STOCKTON — You always remember your first.
If the saying holds true then East Union 119-pounder Marco Castaneda will never forget Saturday afternoon at Lincoln High in Stockton.
Although a number of EU wrestlers showed well and came away with medals, the day belonged to Castaneda, the Lancers’ lone tournament champion, who pinned Bret Harte’s Scott Froriech in the second round of the title match, down 6-4 in points at the time.
“I took him down, and then he got up and got me in a head-and-arm, so I was down a lot of points,” Castaneda said. “So I reversed, but he escaped. I just got him in a pick and brought him to the middle.
“It feels good, I haven’t taken first place in a tournament yet.”
Castaneda, a junior, is 22-4 on the year and had to go through wrestlers from Lincoln and Will C. Wood to reach the championship round.
“Marco had a good day,” EU head coach A.J. Reindel said. “He won three matches in a row. Technical fall in the first, got a pin in the second and a pin in the finals. (Froriech) was a good wrestler, but Marco caught him.
“He’s wrestling really well right now.”
But Castaneda isn’t the only EU wrestler currently performing well.
Both Jason Cortez (125 pounds) and Matt Neves (140) reached the championship match Saturday, while three others, Stevyn Teeple (130), Hector Fajardo (215) and sophomore call-up Devon Woodall (HVY) wrestled for third place.
“We only brought eight kids, and two of them were JV’s,” Reindel said “We had six in the semis. We had a good day. We didn’t bring too many kids, but they wrestled well and they’re doing well. There’s quality wrestlers here, and the kids deserve a good tournament like this to shine in.”
Woodall had an exciting day after Albert Aguilar was hurt in practice last week.
Thrown into his first varsity tournament action, Woodall collected a pin his very first time out, and in impressive style.
Woodall, weighing in a 268 pounds, pinned a Lincoln wrestler who was 14 pounds heavier and three inches taller.
“At practice our heavyweight got hurt, so coach moved me up for this tournament,” Woodall said. “I wanted to win all of my matches, I’ve tried my hardest. I’m just trying to win.”
Woodall also picked up a 12-6 win over Edison’s heavyweight in the consolation semifinals.
With six out of eight wrestlers placing Saturday, and EU’s growing reputation as a formidable bunch, especially in the lower weights, it’s obvious that the Lancers’ success in 2009 will be determined in tournament action, rather than in Valley Oak League dual action.
“Duals aren’t our thing,” Reindel said. “We give up too many points (on forfeits), but you can take eight to 10 quality wrestlers to a tournament and win. We’re built more for tournament competition.”
Reindel was asked if it was important for the Lancers to focus more on making sure that individual wrestlers reach their full potential come the tournament season, rather than team dual expectations.
“That’s kind of the goal,” Reindel said. “Sure, we’d love to win league matches, but with Sonora, and Oakdale and without the numbers, we’re not going to win a whole lot of those matches. So we’re working with what we’ve got.
“At the end of the year, I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I should have done more for this guy when we’re trying to get to subs, or trying to get to Masters or the state tournament.’ So, instead of focusing on building up the team as a whole, we’re trying to develop the individuals.
“And the coaching staff helps with that. The more coaches we have, the more time a coach or I can spend with an individual on the mat while other coaches help with the rest of the guys.”
The philosophy is paying off in spades for the Lancers.
Just ask Castaneda.
“I’m feeling good about the season,” he said. “I’ve trained very hard at practice and I’ve gotten a lot better.
“The hard work is paying off.”