The Reputation Of Del Oro’s JT Stinson Grows After His Recent Upset Victory •
Story and Photos by IKE DODSON
On the wrestling mat, scrambling is art.
Not every pin is achieved after a perfectly executed move, and evenly-matched foes will often improvise rolls, dives, pivots, hoists and pulls long before any points are collected.
And in Loomis, Del Oro High sophomore JT Stinson wields a masterful brush.
The returning state qualifier is ranked sixth in perhaps Northern California’s toughest weight class (145), but he’s the kind of wrestler you can’t count out — a giant killer.
Stinson announced himself to the California wrestling community last year by beating returning state placer Izzak Olejnik (Bakersfield) in the finals of the Clovis West Shootout.
In case we all forgot, Stinson found himself an even bigger giant on Dec. 8.
Competing in the toughest regular season tournament in the nation — The Walsh Ironman in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio — Stinson landed a remarkable 6-4 triumph of the tournament’s No. 3 seed, Cole Matthews of Greenville-Reynolds (Pennsylvania).
Matthews is a returning Pennsylvania state champion and two-time Walsh Ironman finalist who earned a scholarship to wrestle at the University of Pittsburgh. Until Stinson beat him, Matthews was ranked No. 6 in the nation by InterMat.
You have to get creative to beat a wrestler like that.
Stinson scored a couple one-point escapes in the final round, but his big move came at the end of a wild second-round scramble. Matthews dove in for a deep shot on Stinson’s right leg, but when he lifted the leg to finish the takedown, Stinson immediately dropped onto his own head and gripped Matthews’ leg. There was a moment of danger where Stinson’s back was exposed to the mat, but he popped up with Matthews’ leg and rose to his feet.
When Matthews attempted to mirror the maneuver, Stinson wisely sat back and wedged Matthews’ back to the mat while he leveraged a leg skyward. The scramble awarded Stinson four huge points (takedown and back points) and a cushion large enough to overcome Matthews’ desperate third-round aggression.
Stinson lost two close matches to elite national talent to miss the Walsh Ironman medal round, but he’s sent a somber warning to California’s elite 145-pound wrestlers.
“I have been waiting for my time to break through,” Stinson said. “I have the confidence that I can hang with and beat anyone.”
He has plenty of tools to aid his progress, namely sparring partners like Brenden Johnson (NorCal No. 3 at 120), Eli Blake (sixth, 138), Jed Campos (18th, 152) and Noah Blake (second, 160).
“It’s real nice having those guys in the room, because you get to wrestle someone lighter, heavier and a lot of them have different body types, styles and create different matchups, so you are prepared for a lot of different things,” Stinson explained. “What I like about the sport is that it’s all on yourself in the moment, but competing takes the program — a whole village that builds you up and wants you to succeed.
“I have so many great coaches.”
One of them is Clint Madden, who took the reigns from coach Dave Sanchez last year.
“JT is just an excellent scrambler, and we weren’t really surprised to see him put (Ironman’s No. 3 seed) on his back,” Madden said. “I think he has realized that he can go out and attack these top wrestlers and pick up wins at the highest level.”
Stinson is one of seven ranked wrestlers in Del Oro’s lineup. None of them are seniors. The team would be a potential SJS Masters championship favorite, but two-time state place winner and National No. 8 Antonio Lorenzo moved to Southern California (St. John Bosco-Bellflower) and returning state qualifier Willie Costanzo is no longer on the team.
“Losing those two hurt the team, but we are left with a great core group of wrestlers who can do a lot of damage,” Madden said. “It’s a good group to build around. They are having fun and working hard.”
It would be tough to rival Stinson’s work ethic.
While balancing his responsibilities in the classroom with training in the wrestling room, Stinson meticulously raises five huge pigs — the largest a 325-pound gilt (female without piglets).
He walks them regularly and feeds them twice a day, following a diet and supplement plan for each pig that’s stricter than his own wrestling diet (and he has to cut to 145).
“He does have quite the extensive schedule,” his mother, Shelli Stinson, acknowledged with a laugh. “But he loves raising those pigs. He wants to go to a college where he can wrestle and major in agriculture.”
Stinson’s pig-raising career has landed some major accolades as well. One of Stinson’s pigs was crowned the “Gilt Reserve Supreme Champion” at the recent California State Fair.
He will tackle the National Livestock Fair in Arizona Jan. 1.
Scrambling won’t help there, but maybe don’t count him out.