RIPON — The smallest wrestler of Ripon High’s varsity squad came up huge.
Wednesday’s action-packed Trans-Valley League opener with defending champion Escalon came down to the 106-pound showdown between Ripon freshman Gabriel Barnett and Khyle Deluchi.
It was the varsity debut for young Barnett, but he handled the pressure like a veteran in front of a lively home crowd at Abeyta-Hortin Gym.
Barnett yielded an early takedown but changed the momentum late in the first period with a nifty reversal. He rode out his opponent to a 1-minute, 49-second stoppage and a riveting 40-37 team victory for the Indians.
Barnett’s teammates took turns embracing the diminutive dynamo after the match. Soon after, fans, parents, coaches and teachers delivered their congratulations to cap a night he will never forget.
“It feels pretty special,” he said.
Things looked bleak in the early going when Deluchi scored a quick takedown and maintained the dominant position for most of the opening period. Barnett tried several times to escape and finally executed with about 35 seconds to go. With his back to his opponent, Barnett stood up and dropped to the mat before rolling over to blanket Deluchi in one swift maneuver.
“I went for a move I never tried before, got on top of him and just held him there,” Barnett said. “I’ve never done that in a match before.”
The win over Escalon, a perennial small-school power, was the first since 2005 for Ripon (1-0, 4-3 overall). Escalon returns three league champions in Jon Costa (170), Dylan Furtado (145) and Jason Robbins (152), and they each pinned their opponents Wednesday.
“I thought we had a shot,” said Ripon coach Glen White. “(Escalon) has some super tough kids, so we kind of knew things were going to be tough at certain weights. The kids fought hard even against their toughest kids, so I’m happy about that.”
The match opened at 113 pounds, a weight forfeited by the Cougars. Edgar Gonzales’ 5-minute, 16-second pin of Chaz Whelborn pushed Ripon ahead 12-0, but Escalon reeled off five straight wins to take a 25-12 lead.
Leading the comeback for Ripon were 2010 TVL champions Trevor Daniel (9-1 decision) at 160 and Trevor Smith (5:51 fall) at 182. Carlos Gutierrez stopped Colin Strausser in 1:23 to keep the Indians within range, and they recaptured the lead, 34-31, with Samuel Beeler’s 1:26 pin of Brendon Belman in the 220-pound bout.
In the heavyweight matchup, Escalon’s Joey Gutierrez made quick work of Jordan Sullivan in 43 seconds to pin the pressure on the 106-pound combatants.
“Before the match I thought it could come down to Gabe,” White said. “I knew he could do it."
Weston Ranch 55, Bear Creek 18
Aided by three forfeitures, Weston Ranch coasted past its Stockton rival in nonleague action.
Earning wins by fall were Brandon Mugarro (145) and Joe Gomez (285). Daniel Guzman dominated the 120-pound match en route to a 15-0 technical fall.
Luis Ochoa (113, 10-3), Rey Adonis (126, 6-4 overtime), JoeAnthony Gomez (138, 15-2) and James Simerly (170, 11-8) outpointed their opponents.
“Overall, we were sloppy and didn’t seem like we were ready to wrestle,” Weston Ranch coach Pat King said. “We can’t just show up and go through the motions like we did tonight and expect to compete in the Valley Oak League. Our kids understand what we expect from them, so we need to get back in the room and fix our overall game.”
Ripon 39, Escalon 35
The lower-level match was just as hotly-contested as the varsity but was decided in less thrilling fashion.
Alex Anda won the final bout at 106 via forfeiture for the final points and a Ripon win. Escalon was up 29-12 at one point after taking five straight in the middleweights.
Earning points for the Indians were: Brent White (120, 2:00), Evan Colsta (126, 0:55), Nick Sharp (170, 12-8), Jared Brad (182, 2:41), Tyler Swortfiguer (195, forfeiture) and Kody Day (220, 0:17).