Wrestling's essence, whether it's some far-flung junior varsity match or the bright-lit drama of a state final, does not change.
It's one athlete versus another, just them and the referee on the mat. The points are scored, the energy is expended and a hand is raised at the end.
There is nothing more intensely personal in sports than wrestling.
The Stanislaus District witnessed some of that unique me-versus-you at last weekend's Lloyd C. Engel Tournament at Escalon High. The expanded field, the best in years at the Engel, resulted in some high-level duels for the top medals.
Arguably the best match was the 170-pound final won by Escalon's Johnathon Costa 4-2 over Central Catholic's Ray Lomas. Here were solid seniors, State Meet veterans, in a pitched battle decided by Costa's third-round takedown.
Enochs sophomore McCoy Kent annexed the 140-pound title by beating sophomore Colin Hustrulid of Ponderosa. Kent got there, however, with a hard-fought win over Jake Jacobson of Oakdale in the semifinal.
Both Kent and Jacobson are ranked among the top eight at 138 in the Sac-Joaquin Section's rankings released late last week.
Modesto freshman Israel Saavedra took the 122-pound crown with a convincing win over Ceres' talented senior Gabe Balderas. Saavedra was in charge though his lead was only 4-2 after two periods.
Other district champions at the Engel included Nico Colunga of Oakdale (115), Joey Abbate of Central Catholic (147), Dean Duivenvoorden of Gregori (197) and Zack Fallentine of Oakdale (220). Brothers Max and Ronnie Stevens of Oakdale double-forfeited the 128-pound final.
THE GIRLS The surging popularity of girls wrestling again will be seen first-hand Saturday in Enochs' fourth annual Lady Eagle Invitational.
The trend continued last weekend with three major girls tournaments in California one of them the 15th Napa Valley Classic which drew more than 600 entries in all.
Napa Valley, which bills itself the world's largest girls tournament, featured East Union senior Sarah Phillips, the 103-pound champion and the event's outstanding lightweight.
Phillips (25-0 versus boys and girls), went 4-0 for the title. The only thing she hasn't done in her career is stand at the top of the podium at state. She'll get one more opportunity at the Girls State Meet, the second championship sanctioned by the CIF, Feb. 22-23 at Lemoore High.
Jessica Paasch of Calaveras won the 235-pound title at Napa and Livingston's Gurleen Chahal of Livingston was the runner-up at 114. Other district wrestlers who earned medals at Napa: Sariyah Jones of Enochs, fourth (98); Mariah Wheeler of East Union, fifth (114), Ashley Barnes-Barrios of Central Valley, sixth (122), Kayla Sadler of Bret Harte, fifth (146); and Keryn Thompson of Bret Harte, fifth (154).
BUSY SCHEDULE Wrestlers, competing during mid-week dual meets and tournaments on the weekends, are working daily.
Thirteen district schools will send entries to the Sacramento Convention Center for Saturday's Tim Brown Memorial. Also held this weekend is the Mid-Cals at Gilroy High, where six district schools are entered.
Farther south is Temecula Valley's Battle for the Belt. Oakdale will be represented by Colunga, Ronnie Stevens and Tyler Noon (152). Abbate also joins the field at Temecula Valley.