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Titles prove elusive, but 14 advance to Masters
East Union’s Stevyn Teeple takes down Rio Linda’s Jake Wiffler in the fifth place match. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Four area wrestlers closed out the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Wrestling Championships with an opportunity to win titles, but all came up short yet will continue their season by advancing to the Masters Wrestling Tournament next weekend in Stockton.

Fourteen Manteca-area Valley Oak League wrestlers outlasted enough of the monstrous tournament field to extend their season for at least another week. Each wrestler will try and put a solid two-day tournament run together in hopes of advancing to the CIF State Meet in Bakersfield beginning March 5.

Weston Ranch’s Chris Contreras (189-lb) and Travis Bowen made their way to championship matches, but both came up short in their quest for divisional titles. Contreras was stopped 8-2 by Nikolay Yakshin of Central High, while Bowen ran into VOL counterpart Adam Hammerbeck of Sonora who stopped him, also by an 8-2 score.

East Union standout Marco Castaneda did all he could do in the 125-lb championship match, but came up on the short end to Ceres High’s Curtis Hulstine 14-4.

“I really wanted to win,” Castaneda said after his match. “I tried everything I could, but it didn’t happen. It was a tough match and I wrestled my heart out, but he was a tough kid.

“I wanted to do a little bit better, but I guess I am happy with how I finished.”

Lancer teammate Devon Woodall saw his championship hopes sink quickly, when a brief slip-up left Woodall on the mat fending off a pin attempt in the matches’ opening seconds. The East Union heavyweight would hold on for a short period of time, yet the damage was done.

Three other Lancers were able to extend their seasons by earning wins in fifth-sixth place matches. The top-5 wrestlers advance to the next round, while the unfortunate sixth place finisher’s season is complete. Stevyn Teeple (135-lb) and teammate Parsa Davari defeated their opponents in their tournament finales, giving the pair at least another week chasing the ultimate dream.

Senior classmate Jason Cortez beat Placer’s Mitchell Maddox 6-0 for third place.

“There was a lot of emotion in both of their matches,” East Union head coach A.J. Reindel said. “They’re both seniors and if they lose they’re done. Parsa beat his guy yesterday, so beating him again was going to be tough, and Stevyn lost to his kid yesterday.

“The two of them didn’t make it last year (to Masters), so it was special for their senior year, and I’m really proud of them.”

Arguably the brightest moment for the area wrestlers was when Weston Ranch’s Joe Anthony Gomez parlayed his alternate invitation into a berth for the Masters. Gomez out-dueled Eldorado’s Coleman Johns 3-2 in sudden death for a fifth-place victory and another week’s worth of practice.

“That was huge for that kid,” Cougar head coach Pat King said. “He was an alternate and for him to move on, that really is saying something. His confidence level continued to rise all day just by making it to the second day.

“If he gets that first takedown and believes he’s going to win, he’s going to win.”

The Cougars finished the championships in third-place overall with 110.5 points, second only to Placer High (137 points) and Division IV champion Oakdale (253 points). The Lancers closed out play in seventh place (85.5 points), while Sierra was 10th with 67 points.

Also advancing to Masters were Weston Ranch’s Michael Sailsberry (4th place, 112-lb) Faga Tia (3rd place, HWT) along with Sierra’s Ray Widmer (3rd place, 189-lb), Alex Nuanez (3rd place, 171-lb) and Aidan Foster (3rd place, 152-lb).

Manteca’s Evan Sharp (189-lb), Weston Ranch’s Grant Mar (125-lb) and Daniel Guzman (103-lb)  all missed out on extending their seasons, falling in their fifth-sixth place matches by pin.

The Masters will get underway Friday with a 7 a.m. weigh-in and closes out with the championship finals Saturday, beginning at 3:30 p.m. All action will take place at The Stockton Arena.