Sac-Joaquin Section wrestling, finished with its divisional competitions, has funneled down to its banner event.
It’s called the Masters, a two-day soap opera Friday and Saturday at Stockton Arena. The process and the goals are straight-forward: 32-man brackets in each of the 14 weight classes, with the top six in each division advancing to the CIF State Championships next weekend in Bakersfield.
The challenge remains simple, Darwinian and about as subtle as a face-slap. Win and move on to the next round. Lose, and you either make your challenge more difficult, or you hang up your shoes for the season.
For the first time in at least six years, only the top six will continue. The section lost one state qualifier – that one going to the Central Section – due to performance issues. That will remove some of the luster from the seventh-place matches Saturday, though it may add drama to earlier consolation rounds. Fighting to get into the fifth-place round will intensify.
Section officials identify the top four in each class and separate them in the bracket. Former Atwater coach Paul Bristow has taken over as tournament director this year for Elk Grove’s Jeff Winger.
Folsom, ranked ninth in the state, is favored among the top teams. Oakdale has qualified for 13 of 14 divisions for Masters, however, and should contend along with Del Oro, Elk Grove and Vacaville.
Saturday’s finals will be streamed live via www.nfhsnetwork.com/assocations/cifsjs.
Here’s a bracket-by-bracket look at Masters:
106: Jordan Aquino of Vacaville edged Christian Ramos of Benicia 6-5 in last year’s finals. Ramos owns a win over Aquino this season. Could the seniors meet again Saturday? Possibility: D-V champion Ivan Gomez of Waterford vs. Ramos in the quarterfinals.
113: Divisional champions Logan Eaton of Oakdale and Jacob Seto of Elk Grove are favored. Possibilities: Eaton vs. Kyle Jimenez of Escalon in quarters, and Eaton vs. Landon McBride of Del Oro in the semifinals.
120: Nico Colunga of Oakdale edged Devan Turner of Dixon 3-2 in 2014 Masters finals. Turner has beaten Colunga this season, so Turner is ranked second in the state and Colunga fourth. Possibility: Adam Velasquez of Pitman vs. Turner in the semis.
126: Two-time state champion Israel Saavedra of Modesto is unbeaten as a junior, but the bracket is loaded with six among the top 14 in the state. Among them: Trevor Williams of Oakdale and Anthony Hernandez of Vacaville. Hernandez, the defending champion, was third at D-1A last week.
132: Pitman’s Angel Velasquez, formerly of Modesto, and brother Adam became eligible after the transfer only two weeks ago. Angel won D-IAA last week and – last year – was second at Masters and fourth at state at 126. Possibilities: D-III champ Max Stevens of Oakdale vs. Josh Villaflor of Franklin-Elk Grove in second round, Daniel Abbate of Central Catholic vs. Kalani Tonge of Elk Grove in second round, and Villaflor vs. D-IV champ Daniel Cota of Patterson in the quarters.
138: McCoy Kent of Enochs, third at both Masters and State in 2014, has lost only once this season – to Saavedra in double overtime. Lorenzo Lewis of Pitman defeated Clay Shropshire of Del Oro in D-IAA last week. Possibility: Lewis vs. Mason Boutain of Benicia in the semis.
145: Brandon Claiborne of Oak Ridge, who lost to Modesto’s Emilio Saavedra in 138 finals last year, is favored. Pitman’s Gilbert Valadez, third at D-IAA, has a favorable draw. Possibility: D-III champ Reece Chew of Kimball vs. Tanner Robison of Del Oro in the quarters.
152: Merced senior Romeo Medina, the defending champion, won D-IAA last week. The favorite is Zack Velasquez of Ponderosa, ranked No. 3 in state. Beyer’s Martin Sandoval is locked in the same bracket as Velasquez.
160: Folsom’s Lorenzo De La Riva, No. 2 in state, won Masters at 145 last year. Big gap between him and everyone else. Possibility: Cristian Dominguez of Central Catholic vs. De La Riva in the semis.
170: Three divisional champions to watch: T.J. Shamblin of Ponderosa, Mason Koshiyama of Folsom and Oakdale sophomore Abel Garcia. Shamblin and Garcia have split matches this season. Possibility: Garcia vs. Koshiyama in the semis. D-IAA runner-up Cristian Clementi of Pitman could emerge from the bottom of the bracket.
182: Frankie Trent of Oakdale wouldn’t mind a rematch of last week’s D-III final against Seth Avis of Casa Roble (Avis won). Last year, Trent won seven consecutive consolation matches for third at Masters. In the first round: Matt Gallego of Escalon vs. Bobby Posadas of Grace Davis. Possibility: Avis vs. D-IAA champ Kenneth Hamel of Merced in the quarters.
195: Yates Hunter of Lincoln edged Buhach Colony’s Jay Johnson 5-2 in D-IAA final last week. D-IAA qualifiers dominate here: Hunter Halverson of Del Oro, Jacob Pavey of Golden Valley, Isaac Perez of Turlock and others. Possibility: D-III champ Miguel Ibarra of Oakdale vs. D-V champ A.J. Camerena of Escalon in the quarters.
220: Sai Ta’amu of Elk Grove and Kyle Jennings of Ponderosa, both in state top 10, top bracket. Ta’amu has beaten both Jennings and Ken Severe of Beyer.
285: Unbeaten senior Dominic Balmer of Woodcreek, sixth in the state last year, returns as defending champion. Potential title match between Balmer and Jake Minshew of Casa Roble. Balmer defaulted out of Tim Brown final vs. Minshew. Tristan Smith of Ripon won D-V.
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Stockton Arena
Times: 9 a.m. both days
Featured: First, third and fifth-place matches Saturday at 3 p.m.