De La Salle’s Sr. Wrestler Captures First Gold In Program’s History With His Triumph In The 145-Pound Bracket at CIF State Wrestling Championship.
Mark Halvorson’s heart sank when Tony Mendoza’s outstretched hand snaked toward the left foot of his De La Salle-Concord wrestling star, Peyton Omania, in the waning moments of their CIF State Wrestling Championship finale at Rabobank Arena.
But as the Selma wrestler’s eager digits reached Omania’s foot, it suddenly disappeared.
A quick-thinking stretch that De La Salle coach Halvorson calls a “limp leg” dropped Omania’s foot out of reach, and the Spartan senior wisely circled away to ride out a 3-2 lead and bag the only CIF title in De La Salle’s history.
For the first time in 32 medals — all accumulated after 1997 — De La Salle’s wrestling team returned home to the Contra Costa County football mecca with a state gold in tow.
“That was a little too close for comfort for me,” Halvorson said of the last-second reach for Omania’s foot. “Mendoza is good, and you have to keep him out of position and not give him a chance.
“It was a nice shot, but fortunately he didn’t finish.”
It took similar heroics — executed to a finish — to send De La Salle’s North Coast Section champion under the spotlight on center stage at Rabobank. He trailed San Diego Section champ Bernie Truax of Rancho Buena Vista 1-0 in the third round, and dove for a single-leg takedown after a restart with four seconds to go.
When Truax sprawled, Omania suddenly shrugged under an arm and slipped around to Truax’s legs (a peek out) for takedown points as time expired.
“I was really impressed with his mentality this week,” Halvorson said. “It’s just so hard to win this thing. The tournament is so tough it’s hard to even explain, but he worked hard, he put in the time and he earned it.”
Omania balled his fists and echoed a yell off Rabobank’s walls when he guaranteed a trek to the finals. It was the same celebration he let loose when he snatched gold under the spotlight.
“I had to let it out,” Omania explained. “I couldn’t hold it in.
“You sacrifice so much, you work so hard and it just feels real good when you win.”
Omania joins former teammate Darryl Aiello as a three-time state place-winner. He was fifth in 2016 and sixth in 2017. Omania fluctuated between 1 and 3 on the SportStars NorCal rankings all season, and won crucial victories over rivals Jake Ryan of Oakdale and Lawrence Saenz of Vacaville at the Temecula Valley Battle for the Belt to earn his No. 1 seed at state.
Five straight wins — a 26-second pin, a 16-0 technical fall and three narrow decisions pushed him all the way up the medal podium.
He had some help at home too. He thanked his coaches, teammates, the De La Salle faculty and everyone who gave their support.
“Everybody was pulling for him,” Halvorson added. “A lot of guys have been close, but nobody had won in the finals until he got it done.
“I have been getting nonstop texts, emails and calls from people I have not heard from in years.”
The son of Rachel and Jason Omania will continue his wrestling career at Michigan State. He’ll join close friend Jaden Enriquez of Mission Oak-Tulare on a roster that also includes Javier Gasca (Kingsburg) and Christian Rebottaro (Scotts Valley).
De La Salle brought eight wrestlers to state. They combined for 15 wins. Ankhaa Enkhmandakh (160) and Riley Hilt (120) made day No. 2 (the top 16), while Kyle Parco (126) reached the top 12.
Even without a medal, they went home with the spirit of gold.
“Hopefully this cracks the ice,” Halvorson said. “The kids have seen it, and they know they can do it, so we could start seeing more kids at the top of the podium.”