Good wrestling dual-meets pack gymnasiums and generate the kind of excitement that can spice any winter.
Last week, a huge crowd arrived at the Pitman High gym for the showdown dual between crosstown rivals Pitman and Turlock with the Central California Conference title on the line. Each Pitman wrestler was introduced with his own entrance music and walked onto the mat with special fanfare.
Pay close attention to what Pitman, the eventual CCC dual-meet champion, and other schools are doing to promote their dual meets. The future of the sport could be enhanced by better promotion and an enhanced presentation on meet night.
The dual-meet season peaks with the annual Sac-Joaquin Section Team Duals on Saturday at Lincoln High in Stockton. League champions will gather to decide the team honors in head-to-head competition with final matches scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
The team duals stand out because of the crowd involvement, which is always entertaining and intense. Contrast that with the relative calm often seen during the mega-tournaments on the weekends.
Why? Two main reasons: 1. The dual meets, usually no more than two hours long, are easy to follow. Scores are posted and the action focuses on only one mat, and 2. You don’t have to be a star to be a factor at a dual meet.
“The result could be decided by anyone on your team who wins a big match. It’s not always about your star wrestler,” veteran Escalon coach Derek Scott said. “The winner usually depends on the four or five in the middle of your lineup in how they do and how many points they score.”
Conversely, the drawn-out weekend affairs are conducted with anywhere from six to 10 mats strewn across the gym. There’s no real clarity for spectators at least until the semifinal rounds.
The dual-meet excitement in Clovis, a wrestling hotbed, rivals basketball games. Each event is punctuated with showmanship not unlike professional wrestling. No one is endorsing WWE glitz at the high school level, but more attention never hurts for both athletes and fans.
“Those meets in Clovis are so good. The fans really get into it,” Turlock coach Mike Contreras said.
WRESTLER OF THE WEEK – Hilmar senior Antonio Melo (33-2), ranked fourth in the section at 184, sustained his momentum by winning his bracket last weekend at Pitman’s 10th annual Rumble In The Jungle. Melo is motivated by some closes misses in his last two postseasons – a 1-2 showing at last year’s Masters after he won at the Section Divisional and, as a sophomore, an eighth-place finish at the Masters (only the top seven advance to State). “He’s dropped from 220s to 180s the last two years. He’s really strong now,” Hilmar coach Bruce Scott said. “He never wrestled until his freshman year, so he’s catching up.” Melo will try to become the first Hilmar wrestler in 21 years – since Joe Walthour – to qualify for State.
NOTES – The girls compete today and Saturday at the Section Girls Invitational, the female version of the Masters, at McNair High. The top five in each weight class will qualify for the CIF Championships Feb. 28-March 1 at the Visalia Convention Center. ... Top 10 state-ranked boys: Modesto’s Israel Saavedra 1st at 120, brother Emilio Saavedra 3rd at 132, Modesto’s Angel Velasquez 4th at 126, Oakdale’s Logan Eaton 7th at 106, Turlock’s Isaac Bertalotto 8th at 145, Enochs’ McCoy Kent 9th at 145, Oakdale’s Nico Colunga 9th at 113, and Bret Harte’s Justin Barnes 10th at 160. ... Bertalotto’s season has ended, however, after he injured his knee during the first day of the Engel at Escalon. He tried to rehab but he learned later that he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He was 17-2. “The only good thing is that he is a junior. He’ll have one more year,” Contreras said. ...
Oakdale is ranked third in the section behind leader Vacaville and No. 2 Folsom. The Mustangs rose above No. 4 Modesto, the Modesto Metro Conference champion, for the first time this season. ... Escalon won the Trans-Valley League dual-meet title and qualified for the Team Duals, but deciding the runner-up spot proved difficult. Hilmar, Hughson and Ripon all tied for second. League coaches broke the tie by adding the points accrued during the head-to-head meetings among the trio, and Ripon prevailed over Hilmar by two points.