Sonora, CC wrestling claim titles

SACRAMENTO -- The Sonora High wrestling team was hoping to make school history at the Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Team Dual Championships on Saturday.

Central Catholic was looking to annex its third consecutive team title.

They both left Rosemont High of Sacramento with what they wanted: blue banners signifying a section championship.

The Wildcats, who defeated Oakdale 40-32 in their Valley Oak League dual meet to win the conference crown, beat the Mustangs again. This time, it was a 43-33 victory in the Division IV match over an Oakdale team that was at full strength -- a rarity this season.

Central Catholic, meanwhile, dominated all three of its opponents, including Trans-Valley League champion Escalon in the Division V title match, 48-16.

The Raiders won the Western Athletic Conference with ease, and jumped out to a 29-4 lead in the victory over the Cougars on Saturday.

"A lot of our guys are really starting to come into their own," Central Catholic assistant coach Adam Vasconcellos said. "And we had another guy, David Ferry. He had a tough match with (Escalon's) Bryan Toy in a tournament last week, and this time around he wrestled a full six minutes. He wrestled really tough."

With three wrestlers -- Steven Vasquez (160 pounds), Louis Bland (189) and Dominic Galas (heavyweight) -- ranked among the top two in the state in their weight classes, the Raiders could count on big wins in the upper weights.

"They're just a really solid team," Escalon coach Derek Scott said. "They beat (Section Division I runner-up) Elk Grove earlier this year. They're not like most small schools.

"Everybody came in knowing they were wrestling for second place."

And in the end, it was the Cougars who toppled Lindhurst and Calaveras -- Scott said his team wrestled "really well" against the Redskins -- to make the finals.

Waiting for them were the Raiders, who beat Golden Sierra and Waterford en route to the finals.

"It's always a big goal for us to win at team duals," Vasconcellos said. "But we've got larger goals beyond here, too. We're hoping for big things at Sections and the state meet.

"We've got a pretty good lineup going right now."

The Division IV match, wrestled in a secondary gymnasium while the other four divisions competed on the main floor, was expected to go down to the wire, same as the two teams' league match. For that match, Oakdale was without defending state champion Rudi Burtschi, who is still recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

But the second time around, the Wildcats took control early and held off a late Oakdale rally.

"We knew it was going to come down to the close matches," Sonora coach Jon Abernathy said. "We knew they were going to get some extra points with Rudi back, but we had some guys who lost the last time that came back to win."

Abernathy pointed out Andy Hammerback at 125 pounds, as well as Shawn Betzenderfer, who beat Wyatt Casey 5-2 in a tough 112-pound match.

"We knew it was going to be us and Oakdale," Sonora 135-pounder Curtis Duncan said. "We all wanted to do this for Coach. He's been here for some time and has never got one of those banners."

It's Sonora's first section title in wrestling.

Oakdale coach Brian Stevens gave all the credit to the Wildcats' stout lineup.

"They really stepped it up today," he said. "They all wrestled well, and they had a really good strategy for us."

He was happy to have Burtschi back. The Oakdale senior, whose foot injury sidelined him for a month, pinned all three of his opponents Saturday.

"He looked really good today," Stevens said. "And this is where you want to be at your best."

In the Division I field, Central California Conference champion Turlock lost 41-29 to Elk Grove in the semifinals, while Modesto Metro Conference champion Davis fell to Folsom in the first round.