The Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Championships will begin on Friday at Stockton Arena with a field of 448.
Barely a day later, their ranks will be chopped to 98 – the top 7 in each of the 14 weight classes – who will continue to the pinnacle of the sport in California, the CIF Championships in Bakersfield on March 7-8.
Wrestlers know that if they win their first three matches Friday, they’re going to Bakersfield. If they absorb a loss, their road becomes more complicated in the consolation bracket.
Action starts both Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m. It climaxes with simultaneous matches for first, third and fifth place Saturday at 3 p.m. The seventh-place matches, the tournament’s infamous go-to-state-or-go-home round, will be held Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
Among the favorites are reigning state champions Israel Saavedra of Modesto (120) and Cornell-bound Jeramy Sweany of Vacaville (182). Top-ranked in the section going into the Masters are Oakdale’s Logan Eaton (108) and Nico Colunga (115), Israel Saavedra, Angel Velasquez (128) and Old Dominion-bound Emilio Saavedra of Modesto (140).
Here’s a bracket-by-bracket breakdown of the Masters:
106 – Logan Eaton emerged when he became the first wrestler in Oakdale history to win at Temecula Valley’s Battle of the Belt. He did it with a 7-2 decision over Isaac Blackburn of Del Oro. These two loom over the bracket. Eaton must wade through D 1 AA talent, including Modesto’s Adam Velasquez, until potential a semifinal with Jordan Aquino of Vacaville. Freshman Jake Abeyta of Calaveras is D 5 champ.
113 – Nico Colunga of Oakdale, a 2013 state medalist (eighth), and Devan Turner of Dixon are the wrestlers to watch, and it sets up favorably for Colunga. Demanding first-round match between Landon McBride of Del Oro and Zach Miller of Ponderosa. Tyler Felix of Los Banos lost to Colunga at D 4 final, but they’re slotted in opposite brackets.
120 – Top-tier weight class featuring Israel Saavedra of Modesto and Gionn Peralta of Vacaville, ranked 1-2 in state. Their collision in D 1 AA final, won by Saavedra 2-1, may not be their last. Also a major contender is No. 4-ranked Anthony Wesley of Jesuit and Curtis Booth of Folsom. Tristan Scott of Elk Grove and Trevor Williams of Oakdale also will be factors. Guaranteed good quarterfinal matches.
126 – Angel Velasquez, Adam’s brother, owns an impressive 5-0 win over Vacaville’s Anthony Hernandez of Vacaville at D 1 AA final, but Velasquez’s bracket is not easy. Turlock’s Rafael Herrera, the D 1 A champ, is expected to make a run. A ildcard is Oakdale’s Max Stevens, who’s state-ranked despite missing much of the season due to injury. Stevens and Velasquez could meet in the semifinals.
132 – The favorites are Josh Lazaro of Folsom and Bobby Ehman of Vacaville, the latter who escaped with a last-second win over Paul Fagbamilla of Beyer in the D 1 AA final. Cadence Mitchell of Gregori stares down a second-round meeting with Lazaro. The rest depends on who’s best on the right days – Caleb Patrick of Argonaut, Lyford Morris of Bret Harte, Chase Herrin of Hughson, Daniel Cota of Patterson and Nick Valadez of Pitman.
140 – Emilio Saavedra of Modesto avenged an MMC loss to Enochs‘ McCoy Kent in D 1 AA final. Saavedra is ranked fourth in state, Kent is eighth. Kent hasn’t forgotten a one-point loss (not to Saavedra) in the 2013 Masters final. Saavedra could face Escalon’s Tyler Lawrence, a former state-meet qualifier, in semifinals.
145 – Vacaville’s Hayden Fry beat Lorenzo De La Riva of Folsom 2-1 in last year’s Masters final. De La Riva, ranked third in state, twice has beaten Fry this season. Freshmen Christian Dominguez of Central Catholic and Abel Garcia of Oakdale could challenge. Dominguez beat Garcia 2-1 in D 4 final.
152 – Mason Koshiyama of Folsom and Kimball’s Trent Nicholson, the section’s 1-2, are the ones to watch, but only four state-ranked wrestlers are here. If Nicholson wins, he and father Larry (the 1978 and 1980 champ) will become only the ninth father-son champs in section history. The last duo was Oakdale’s Brent and Trent Noon.
160 – Justin Barnes of Bret Harte ripped through D 5 last week and is No. 2 in section behind Kaleo Ramero of Oakmont. Warning: Barnes’ second-round match is against Jimmy Jones of Bella Vista, and Pitman’s Logan Wolfley vs. Quintin Cardoza of Vacaville in second round. The path for Oakdale’s Tanner Reeves isn’t as tough as Wolfley’s.
170 – Start with Albino Orozco of Turlock at the top and Will Sumner of Nevada Union at the bottom. Orozco can advance here. Good first-rounder in Frankie Trent of Oakdale (D 4 champ) vs. Nathan Ah You of Gregori. Joseph Dias of Hughson beat Austin Martinez of Escalon in D 5 final.
182 – No Hilmar wrestler has reached the State Meet in 21 years. Antonio Melo, ranked 4th in section, can end that streak. At the top of the bracket is top-ranked Nicholas Fiegener, a 2013 Masters champion (160) and state runner-up. Reggie Bland of Central Catholic, who started late after state-title football campaign, possibly awaits in semifinals.
197 – Top-ranked Joey Banks of Franklin-Elk Grove beat No. 2 Erik Medina of Jesuit last week in D 1 final. Jay Johnson of Buhach Colony and D 1 AA runner-up Adam Darwish of Modesto could meet. D 5 champ A.J. Camarena of Escalon and Banks also are a potential matchup.
220 – Doubtful if anyone can dethrone Jeramy Sweany of Vacaville, a 2013 state and Masters champion (195) who’s ranked No. 1 in state. He dominated at D 1 AA. Tucked into the upper half of the bracket are Nick Roditis of Pitman, who could pair up with Escalon’s Dominic Freescha. Ken Severe of Beyer and JoJo Ochoa of Atwater meet in the first round.
285 – Tony Lopez of Merced, the D 1 A champ, is ranked 3rd in section. A good run could lead him to No. 2. Dominic Balmer in semifinals. No. 1 Jake Minshew of Casa Roble stands above the bottom bracket. In his way is Eric Bajeron of Pitman. Cesar Arreola of Modesto vs. Lopez in first round.