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Weston Ranch pins down Team Sections berth
Weston Ranch’s Adrian Garcia has a tight grip on his opponent Wednesday during the Cougars’ VOL win over Lathrop High.
WESTON RANCH – Both Lathrop and Sierra’s wrestling program knew how close they were to earning a berth into the Sac-Joaquin Section Team Duals to open the postseason, but it was the Weston Ranch Cougars that proved to be the strongest team handling both clubs to earn the Valley Oak League’s No. 2 spot.

Weston Ranch slipped past Sierra 39-30 before solidifying its berth with a convincing 49-17 win over the Spartans. Lathrop trailed the Cougars by a single point through eight matches, but Weston Ranch rallied behind four pins to put the match away.

“They pulled away from us, but there is a reason these guys are always competing for the VOL’s top two spots,” Lathrop head coach Dimos Birakos said. “He has done an awesome job here and my hat goes off to them.

“I have no complaints, my guys went in there and wrestled their butts off.”

Lathrop was edged out by Sierra when those two programs locked up, but Sierra’s fate against the Cougars would not be the same. Weston Ranch was able to post the minor point differential by losing the matches they couldn’t take, but without being pinned.

“The difference is our kids understand that we preach wrestling as a team sport,” Weston Ranch head coach Pat King said. “It does not turn individual, we do not concentrate on one or two kids, for us this is a team concept until the middle of February.

“And no matter what we teach our kids to get off their backs. If you get put on your back get off your back.”

Weston Ranch was able to smell the postseason berth, holding Lathrop off the scoreboard over the final six matches. James Simberly, Israel Lopez, Nathan Bowens and Daniel Guzman all posted pins, while Donell Simms and heavyweight Sterling Owens each scored decisions. Owens outlasted Lathrop’s Michael Goldberg 1-0 in a classic heavyweight shoving match.

Weston Ranch finished second in league to section powerhouse Oakdale High, dropping its dual with the Mustangs earlier in the season. The second place finish was the primary goal for the Cougars entering the season, and has been over the past five years.

“I have a lot of respect for Brian (Stevens) and what they do over there at Oakdale,” King said. “It’s a model program. That is what we strive to be. Our kids understand where we are at and what we expect every year. We knew going into the Oakdale match that it would be tough, but our kids wrestled.

“Our kids know there is a standard at our school and this is our fourth year going to team sections.”