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Heavyweights surprise pin helps East Union earn first VOL win
East Unions Mikey Villanueva gets in position before taking down Mantecas Steven Martinez in the dramatic heavyweight match. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Mikey Villanueva was down and almost out during Wednesday’s Valley Oak League double dual at Dalben Center.

The East Union heavyweight trailed 5-0 early in his match with visiting Manteca’s Steven Martinez and was nearly pinned.

“You don’t fight off your back very often as a heavyweight,” East Union coach A.J. Reindel said. “As soon as Mikey got tossed to his back it was like, ‘It’s over.’”

And just like that it was. Yet, it was Villanueva and the Lancers doing the cheering after the pivotal bout was finished. His shocking pin with a second remaining in the opening period gave the Lancers the momentum all they needed for a 43-31 victory — their first triumph in Valley Oak League action with one dual remaining.

Jason Betlej then clinched the team victory with a 1 minute, 47-second fall at 106.

“This is the loudest it had been here for a wrestling dual in a while,” Reindel said. “It was fun. You want to win them all and you want them all to be easy, but when all is said and done when you come out on top in a match like that it’s fun.”

Villanueva relished the clutch win.

Though still under Martinez’s control, Villanueva turned the tables by first getting to a standup position. Then in one motion he wriggled out of his opponent’s grip, took him down with a hip toss and fired up the Lancer faithful with the pin.

 “Just never gave up,” Villanueva said. “I show up to practice and give it all I got so that by the time I hit the mat I’m not going to be breathing so hard in the first couple minutes.”

Manteca (1-6) pulled out a similar comeback triumph the match before.  East Union’s Nathan Andrade was leading the 220-pound match 3-2 before Matt Wilkerson’s reversal and subsequent pin halted it. That was part of a back-and-forth five-match stretch in which the two teams traded wins via fall.

The 113-pounders kicked off the contest and was a nice tone-setter. Damen Cabanas of East Union and Michael Blades were locked in a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation, and Cabanas came through with the pin 42 seconds into overtime.

“We gotta take advantage of our opportunities,” Manteca coach Mark Varnum said.

Junior varsity call-up Nic Bettencourt stuck Hector Ramirez in 5:17, and David Mendez outpointed Robert Foo 12-3 as the Lancers raced out to a 16-0 start. East Union needed the hot start with forfeitures ahead at 152 and 160.

Marcus Avila earned a 7-1 minor decision at 132 for Manteca’s first points of the night. Other contributing Buffaloes were Jacob Orner (138, 8-0) and Travis Burciaga (182, 1:21). Jesus Vasquez (147, 8-3), Joel Melena (170, 1:23) and Nick McGill (195, 1:58) rounded out scoring for East Union.

Third-place Kimball (5-2) beat both local squads. The Jaguars first dispatched Manteca 54-30 before edging East Union 40-33 in a surprisingly-close match. Vasquez (1:20) and Melena (9-4) picked up wins for East Union.

“We’ve been banged up; we’ve missed a lot of guys and now have most of the team back,” Reindel said. “We wrestled well against Kimball and made a match out of it. I knew that, being banged up and having some holes, if we wrestled tough we could possibly beat Manteca.”