STOCKTON — Modesto High’s Emilio Saavedra walked into Stockton Arena on Saturday morning and straight into a flood of memories.
His sentimental mood surprised him. Teen-agers normally don’t go wistful until, maybe, graduation night. But Saavedra understands what the Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Championships have meant to him as he reflected:
--As a baby-faced freshman, he outquicked Gionn Peralta of Vacaville for a second-round pin and a championship,
--A year later and leading 7-1, he zigged when he should have zagged and Bella Vista’s Victor Trujillo stunned the house by pinning him.
--As a junior, he was relegated to cheerleading duties for brother Israel.
Somehow, as he recalled the good and the bad, Emilio liked where the road took him.
“When I got here this morning, it brought me back,” he said. “Memory lane.”
Emilio tacked on one more golden oldie when he outworked Oak Ridge sophomore Brandon Clairborne 9-3 in the 138-pound finals. These days, he’s sometimes known as Israel’s older brother – a bow to his sibling’s 2013 state title – but he’s always been a team player with his family.
His farewell performance at the Masters forever buried the bitter finish to his junior season when he missed weight, thus stopping him cold before the Modesto Metro Conference meet. The two-time state medalist rooted Israel on to a victory in Bakersfield, and one year later, he’ll close his exceptional career next week the right way – on the mat at the state’s pinnacle event.
“It’s good to see I’m prepared for State,” Emilio said. “I’m on track.”
So is his bro. Israel rolled through the 120s with four pins and no more dramatics were needed. He was handed the title when Peralta, who nearly beat Saavedra last week at the Division 1-AA final, suffered a hip injury during the morning’s semifinal match and forfeited the final.
“I was looking forward to it,” Israel said. “We’ll probably meet again.”
The family bookend titles, along with a controversial loss in the 113-pound finals by Modesto junior Angel Velasquez, propelled Modesto to a tie for fourth place in the team standings. Adam Velasquez, Angel’s younger brother, also tacked on team points with his fifth-place finish.
The crowd estimated at 1,500 cascaded boos onto the arena floor as Vacaville’s Anthony Hernandez completed his controversial 4-3 win over Angel Velasquez. Late in the match, the Modestan was hit with a clasped-hands violation as Hernandez escaped, resulting in the decisive two points. Earlier, the official signaled a Velasquez takedown and quickly reversed it.
“There were a couple of judgment calls,” Panthers coach Angel Saavedra allowed. “He (Angel) is not going to let it hold him back.”
Four Stanislaus District champions were crowned overall. Joining the Saavedra’s were Oakdale junior Nico Colunga (113) and Merced junior Romeo Ontiveros (152).
Colunga, an eighth-place medalist at State last year, will make his third trip to Bakersfield. He had not taken home the big prize at Masters, however, until he clutched the legs of Devan Turner of Dixon just long enough to seal a 3-2 decision.
“Winning Masters gets you a good draw at State,” Colunga said.
Thirty-five district wrestlers placed in the top seven of their respective brackets, thus extending their seasons to the max. Runners-up medals were annexed by Pitman’s Logan Wolfley (160), Turlock’s Albino Orozco (170), Escalon’s Dominic Freeseha (220) and Angel Velasquez.
Besides Modesto, the MMC scored with third-place finisher McCoy Kent of Enochs (140), teammate Devon Sookhoo in fourth (126), Josh Peterson of Beyer in sixth (145) and teammate Paul Fagbamila in seventh (132). Kent recovered after he absorbed a tough 5-4 overtime loss to Clairborne in the semis. Central Catholic’s Steven Abbate (113) goes to State after his seventh.
Pitman qualified a school-record four for next week, one more than Oakdale.
But the best scrapbook memories were logged by Emilio, the Saavedra brother who waved a fond farewell to Stockton.