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Area's top wrestlers are hitting the road

Most of the area's top wrestlers have a road trip scheduled for this weekend.

Locally, many teams are taking the trip up Highway 99 to Sacramento for the Tim Brown Memorial Invitational. The 93-team tournament is still considered the best of the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Some of the area's top wrestlers, specifically those from Oakdale and Central Catholic, are making the trip south to Fountain Valley for the Five Counties Invitational.

The Tim Brown Invitational, formerly the Foothill Invitational, features 93 teams, including 10 from the Stanislaus District. One of those wrestlers is one of the nation's best in Las Lomas senior Jason Welch. Welch, a 160-pounder, is bound for Northwestern University and is ranked No. 1 in the United States by every national wrestling organization.

The Five Counties Invitational is considered one of the toughest regular-season tournaments in the country. It features the state's top-ranked wrestler by The California Wrestler magazine in 11 of 14 weight classes.

Two of those top-ranked wrestlers are from this district: Central Catholic senior Louis Bland at 189 pounds and Oakdale senior Rudi Burtschi at 215 pounds. Two more local wrestlers are ranked No. 2 in the state: Oakdale's Trevor Machado-Ching at 140 pounds and Central Catholic heavyweight Dominic Galas.

Bland and state No. 2 Hunter Collins of Gilroy are expected to meet in the finals. Collins is ranked higher than Bland in most national lists, although he has never defeated Bland in a high school match.

Machado-Ching could also be in a state No. 1 vs. No. 2 match, because El Diamante of Visalia's David Watts is also entered.

"We get some great matches at Five Counties," Central Catholic coach Steve Strange said. "It's a solid two days of competition."

AS expected, the Sac-Joaquin Section board of managers unanimously approved increasing the CIF State Championship Bowl Football games from three divisions to five.

The section's vote will be forwarded on to the CIF's Jan. 25 Federated Council meeting, where that number will be officially decided.

But how those five divisions are split up will come from the state level. And there's a chance they won't all be enrollment-based.

At Wednesday's board of managers meeting, section commissioner Pete Saco brought up the possibility of having four enrollment-based divisions and one "open" division.

"In that open division, the section commissioners would decide the top team from Northern California and Southern California, regardless of division," section assistant commissioner John Williams said. "They would play each other.

"It was suggested and the section commissioners liked the idea."

DAVIS High will conduct an athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at halftime of its boys basketball game against Johansen on Feb. 1.

The four inductees all graduated from Davis over the last 10 years:

Raul Bautista (soccer). Bautista was the Central California Conference MVP in 2001, went to San Diego State and was drafted by MLS team Chivas last January.

Landon Seefeldt (wrestling). Seefeldt was a state placer (fifth) as a senior and wrestled at Fresno State and Fullerton State, where he spent much of his senior season in 2005 within the national rankings.

Robby Valenzuela (football). Valenzuela, The Bee's 2000 football player of the year, played four years on the defensive line for the University of Oregon.

Ashleigh Smith (cross country, track). Smith didn't lose a Central California Conference cross country race as a Spartans senior in 2000 and also advanced to the CIF State Meet in track. She went on to the University of New Mexico-Highlands. She was killed in a car accident in New Mexico in March of 2006.

TURLOCK High School will hold an athletic program fund-raiser on Jan. 29 when the Harlem Clowns come to town to play a team consisting of current Turlock High employees as well as notable alumni. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $7 in advance -- they can be purchased at the Turlock High activities office or at Play It Again Sports in Turlock -- or they are $8 at the door.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.