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After being edged for a league title, Del Oro wrestling doubled down on an SJS Masters title — and won.    By JIM McCUE...

After being edged for a league title, Del Oro wrestling doubled down on an SJS Masters title — and won. 

  By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor

  Del Oro wrestling coach Dave Sanchez knew that his team was good enough to be the best in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The Golden Eagles were a talented and deep group, including several wrestlers state ranked by, but they had a problem with Sierra Foothill League rival Folsom.

  The Bulldogs edged Del Oro in the SFL finals to qualify for the section Team Duals in Division I. Because only league champions qualify for the Team Duals, the Golden Eagles were left to continue training for the Section Masters Championships while Folsom and 35 other programs battled to be the best wrestling team in the section’s six divisions.

  The time off from competition gave Sanchez and his team a chance to rest and train, but more importantly to set their eyes on a bigger prize: the Section Masters team title.

  “I don’t think that the extra time gave us any kind of advantage,” Sanchez said, “but it made us focus more and made us even more determined to win the Masters title.”

  That focus and determination resulted in big tournaments from some of the Golden Eagles’ unsung grapplers. Sophomore Pablo Miller pulled off a major upset of top-seeded Sai Ta’amu at 220 pounds, pinning the Elk Grove senior in a quarterfinal match before finishing a surprising sixth. Ryan Ojeda turned in his best tournament of the season to claim fourth place at 160 pounds, and Zack Ruybal upset another top-seeded Elk Grove wrestler on his way to a second-place finish at 132 pounds.

  Ruybal was one of two Golden Eagles to reach a final. Junior Landon McBride earned Del Oro’s lone individual Section Masters title at 113 pounds by beating yet another Thundering Herd No. 1 seed, Jacob Seto.

  “To win a tournament team title, you need all of your guys to wrestle well, and you need luck,” Sanchez said. “We are so even with Folsom, that in tournaments and in the league final, it really came down to who might have had that little bit of extra luck to come out ahead.

  “Competing with Folsom in league only made us better, and we had a little luck at Masters to win.”

  Folsom was the lone school to have two Section Masters champions (Lorenzo De La Riva at 160; Jerod Nooner at 220), but Del Oro led the pack with eight qualifiers for the CIF State Championships being held March 6-7 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. Both Oakdale and Elk Grove will send seven wrestlers to state while Folsom will have five athletes competing in Bakersfield.

  With his team perhaps at the top of its game, Sanchez has adjusted his expectations for the state tournament slightly.

  “I would be really happy with a top 10 finish at state,” he said. “Right out of the gate, we will have tough matches, but if we can wrestle great and have a little more luck, then I think that we can do it.”

  Sanchez would know.

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