STOCKTON — Modesto High’s Velasquez brothers, Adam and Angel, worked like a tag team Friday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships.
Angel, the junior, forgot his black singlet, but Adam, the freshman, bailed him out by trading the same singlet for six matches. They didn’t mind the sweat after they went a combined 6-0 to reach today’s semifinals and qualify for next week’s State Meet.
“Brotherly love,” Adam termed after their final quick-change.
The Panther siblings were hard – no, impossible – to beat this day. The Brothers Saavedra, Israel the state champion and Emilio the two-time state medalist, also dominated for their own six wins.
The Saavedra’s, the Velasquez’s and everyone else who went 3-0 heard the three magic words always reserved for them on Masters Friday: Automatic State Qualifier. All semifinalists are guaranteed at least a spot in the top seven of each weight class, which sends them to Bakersfield.
The day was filled with the predictable joy and heartbreak. Central Catholic freshman Cristian Dominguez (145) won a match with a pellot still lodged in his right arm, the result of a gunshot wound suffered during a Wednesday night home invasion. Then he was DQ’d for not having a confirmed doctor’s clearance.
No one among the 448 Masters qualifiers felt a tougher loss.
Conversely, Modesto exited mostly with smiles creasing their faces. The Panthers, still celebrating their first league title in more than four decades, sit in fifth place in team standings. For this they can thank the Saavedra’s, the established brothers, and the Velasquez’s, the new arrivals.
Angel, top-ranked in the section at 126, wasn’t fazed by the wardrobe malfunction. He romped with two first-round pins and a major. Adam answered with a pair of pins until his tense quarterfinal against top-ranked Logan Eaton of Oakdale.
The younger Velasquez scored the match’s only takedown during the second period and hung on for a 3-2 win.
“He (Eaton) kept pressing. I saw my opening and hit,” Adam said. “If you don’t take a risk, you won’t come out victorious.”
Enochs vaulted a pair into the semifinals. One was expected – 2nd-ranked McCoy Kent via a trio of first-round falls at 138. The other was less expected – 6th-ranked senior Devon Sookhoo, who bounced back from a fourth-place finish at the Section Division 1 AA.
Escalon matched Enochs with two semifinalists in seniors Tyler Lawrence (138) and Dominic Freesha (220). No Cougar has won a section since Wes Garside 11 years ago. Freesha kept himself in contention with a 3-2 overtime win over JoJo Ochoa of Atwater in the quarterfinals.
Lawrence will advance to State for the third time. But for now, there is important business ahead – a semifinal meeting with Emilio Saavedra. Still, extending his season after missing half of it due to spleen and rib injuries already means a lot.
“The toughest part is getting back in shape,” he said.
There is nothing easy about the first day at Masters. Oakdale advanced six into the quarterfinals and only one, 2013 state medalist Nico Colunga, moved forward.
But Pitman, the Central California Conference dual-meet champion, came through in a big way. Four have reached the Final Four of their respective brackets – Nick Valdez (132), Logan Wolfley (160), Nick Roditis (220) and Eric Bajeron (285).
Wolfley trailed 6-2 but rallied in the third period to overtake former state qualifier Justin Barnes of Bret Harte 9-7.
Albino Orozco of Turlock, ranked second at 170, capped an impressive day with a first-round pin for his semifinal berth.
Also still alive for a title are Hughson senior Chase Herrin (132) and Hilmar senior Antonio Melo (182). Herrin stopped Beyer’s Paul Fagbamila 4-3 in the quarterfinals while Melo will become the first Yellowjacket in more than two decades to reach State.
Melo wants more, of course, which brings us to today. A field of 448 started at Masters and only 268 are left. After today, only 98 will stretch their season to the max.