SportStars Magazine

Masters Championships: Vacaville Wrestling Sets SJS Record

Masters Championships, SJS Wrestling, Vacaville

Fire Drills And Wrestling Thrills: Vacaville Sets Team Points Record En Route To Dominating SJS Title Win; Oakdale Shines As Runner-Up •

STOCKTON — Surely bound for glory at the three-day CIF State Wrestling Championships that begins Feb. 21 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, the Oakdale wrestling team is buzzing on the momentum of the program’s best-ever performance at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Championships at Delta College in Stockton. The Mustangs scored more team points (220) than any program in the last five seasons at the SJS Masters Championships.

The only problem — Vacaville did even better.

The Bulldogs set the new standard for excellence at SJS Masters by winning 13 medals. They will send 11 wrestlers to state and scored the most points in SJS history (262.5).

“When you are outside the wrestling room, we are friends, we’re buddies — everyone talks to to each other and we have each other’s backs,” Vacaville’s 120-pound Masters champion TJ Ruiz said. “As soon as we walk in there, you have got 14 killers, 14 killers to anyone that stands in our way.”

Masters Championships, SJS Wrestling, Vacaville

Vacaville’s TJ Ruiz gains the upper hand on an opponent during the SJS Masters Championships. (Ike Dodson photos)

“We felt we could win the tournament with depth,” Vacaville coach Clint Birch added. “All of our kids really bought in to that and wrestled quite well today.”

The only thing that could stop Vacaville was a fire alarm.

The first day of the Masters Championships was momentarily interrupted when a child’s tug sent an already cranky pack of spectators fleeing to the parking lot. Wrestling resumed moments later, but any favorable positions or holds were surrendered to the chaos god.

Masters Championships, SJS Wrestling, Oakdale

Oakdale’s Henry Porter celebrates his 132-pound title victory at the SJS Masters Championships.

The venue was a source of irritation for many of the wrestling fans grown accustomed to the lavish digs at the nearby Stockton Arena. Instead of stadium seating and stellar views of sprawling mats across a tournament floor the size of a hockey rink, Delta College fans had to battle for space on one side of a tall gymnasium, traverse to another gym on the opening day, and overload an already packed space near the mats when views and bleacher space became a problem. Fans also seethed about the high price of admission ($15 per day) and parking ($5 per day).

SJS Assistant Commissioner Will DeBoard said the Stockton Arena wouldn’t agree to host the tournament. When other large arenas and gyms became unavailable, Delta College became the only fix. Since most high school gyms aren’t large enough to fit six mats, the Masters Championships would have lasted three days at other available venues.

But angry fans and a new locale did little to sway the Bulldogs. Vacaville qualified 14 wrestlers and won 64 matches, including 26 of its first 28. And the team could have done even better. At least three wrestlers suffered serious injuries. Eric Almarinez, No. 5 in the SJS at 113 pounds according to SportStars’ NorCal rankings, was forced to default from the championship semifinals. He gave a gutty try to finish the tournament on day No. 2, but was eliminated in his first match. Ethan Birch (placed fifth at 138) and Jacob Peralta (sixth at 132) also hobbled away from the tournament with serious-looking knee injuries.

“We have got to bounce back and try to get as healthy as possible for the state meet,” Coach Birch said. “The tournament took its toll on us.”

Vacaville’s team captains, Ruiz and Tyee Ducharme (152 pounds), will lead Vacaville to state after winning their weight classes. The Bulldogs will also book hotel rooms in Bakersfield for the likes of Isaiah Kainoa Medina (fourth at 106), Connor Shirar (fifth at 126), Zane Martin (third at 145), Coulter Malone (fifth at 160), Cole Chapman (fourth at 170), Chris Island (runner-up at 220) and Eric Hayward (third at 285).

Oakdale will send nine to state. They include Masters champions Henry Porter (132), Ricky Torres (138), Gabriel Martinez (170) and Cody Golding (195).

Ricky Torres raises his hands in victory after taking the Masters Championships 138 pound title.

Torres prevailed 3-0 over state stalwart Eli Blake in the semifinals. Then he cradled and pinned Kendall Frank of Elk Grove suddenly in the first round of the finals. He will join his freshman sibling Michael Torres (fifth at 113) at state.

“To have my little brother there is unforgettable. I’ll cherish it the rest of my life,” Torres said. “I have to thank our coaches. Our staff is unbelievably helpful.”

Other section champions included Andrew Calvert of Franklin-Elk Grove (106), Pitman-Turlock’s Israel Tubera, Turlock’s Adrian Heras, Pitman’s Sammy Silveira (145), Noah Blake (160) of Del Oro-Loomis, Franklin’s Malik Lewis (182), Folsom’s Kyle Richards (220) and Michael Jeffus of Turlock (285).

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