It’s not true that Modesto High brothers Emilio and Israel Saavedra wear targets on their backs for the benefit of every ambitious wrestler in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
It only seems that way.
A win over either – Israel a reigning state champion and Emilio a two-time state medalist – upgrades the career credentials for any opponent. The Saavedra boys long ago accepted that fact, along with the energy each foe brings against them, as a compliment to their elite status.
“I’ve had to work twice as hard as my freshman year,” Israel admitted.
The work showed during Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1AA Championships at Johansen High. Both Saavedra’s produced the kinds of victories that resonate far beyond the section borders and probably to Bakersfield, the site for the CIF Championships in two weeks.
Israel (33-2), locked into an much-anticipated showdown with Vacaville senior and 2013 state runner-up Gionn Peralta, parlayed a clutch reversal with 1:25 left into a taut 2-1 decision in the 122-pound final. The win echoed the Panther’s dramatic overtime vicgtorrn in the state final over Sean Williams of Lemoore and reminded observers that the younger Saavedra doesn’t lose easily.
“This will lead up to the next two weeks,” said Israel in reference to the Section Masters next week in Stockton and the season climax in Bakersfield. “I had to get out and start pressuring.”
About a half hour later, Emilio Saavedra (33-2) avenged his loss last week to Enochs junior McCoy Kent by beating him 5-3 for the 140-pound title. Emilio’s high work-rate resulted in two match-turning takedowns.
“I wrestled my match this time and pushed the pace,” Emilio said. “He (Kent) is strong and stays in good positions. He’s gained that experience.”
Kent and Emilio have collided three times during the past month (Emilio has won twice), and who’s to say they won’t walk onto the same mat again?
“I’ll probably see him next week and the week after,” Emilio said.
Next week resonated with each of the 226 athletes at Johansen. After two days of competition, 112 of them – the top eight finishers in each of the 14 weight classes – will advance to the Section Masters.
Angel Velasquez’s impressive 5-0 win over Vacaville’s Anthony Hernandez in the 128-pound final further illustrated Modesto’s solid performance. The Panthers nearly made it 4-for-4 in title matches, but 197-pounder Adam Darwish fell in the final minute 3-2 to Steve Gomez of Vacaville.
Nevertheless, the Panthers placed a solid third in the team standings behind victorious Vacaville and runner-up Del Oro.
Four of Vacaville’s nine finalists took home titles. One of the them was Bobby Ehman, who all but stole into the setting sun with a 4-3 win over Beyer’s Paul Fagbamila at 134.
Fagbamila, leading 3-1, gave up an escape and a takedown as time expired. Officials huddled for a few moments – Beyer coaches hoped the officials would signal only a takedown and send the match into overtime – but Ehman’s hand eventually was raised.
Later, after all other matches had ended and wrestlers and fans surrounded the title-match mat, Beyer 222-pounder Ken Severe was teched 16-1 by last year’s 195-pound state champion Jeremy Sweany of Vacaville.
From here on, all wrestlers from schools big and small and public and private will funnel onto the same venues for the season’s final two weeks.
Division 4 inVista del Lago – Oakdale rode six champions and two second-place finishes into a run-away team title at D-4. The Mustangs featured winners Logan Eaton (108), Nico Colunga (115), Trevor Williams (122), Max Stevens (128), Tanner Reeves (160) and Frankie Trent (170).
Oakdale, far ahead of runner-up Central Catholic, will send nine to the Masters. The top four in each weight extended their respective seasons.
“Very strong overall,” Oakdale coach Steve Strange assessed. “We’re set to make a nice run at Masters.”
Other champions included Daniel Cota of Patterson (132), Reese Chew of Kimball (138), Christian Dominguez of Central Catholic, Trent Nicholson of Kimball (152) and Reggie Bland of CC (182).
Division 5 at Delhi – Escalon annexed its fourth divisional title by winning four of six finals at D-5. The Cougars relied on champions Tyler Lawrence (138), Colton Camara (145), A.J. Camarena (195) and Dominic Freesha (220). Freesha is ranked 11th in the state and third in the section.
Camarena earned an 11-3 win over Calaveras’ Maxfield Smith, who beat Camarena 3-1 during the Redskins’ victory over Escalon two weeks ago at the Section Team Duals.
The top four in each bracket qualified for the Masters. Escalon will send eight.
Also winning at Delhi were Jacob Abeyta of Calaveras (106), Tylor Gonsalves of Calaveras (120), Andrew Brennan of Summerville (126), Caleb Patrick of Argonaut (132), Humphrey Quirie of Summerville (152), Justin Barnes of Bret Harte (160), Joseph Dias of Hughson (170) and Antonio Melo of Hilmar (182). Melo is ranked 11th in the state.