STOCKTON — Then there were eight.
Thursday, 31 El Dorado County wrestlers from Golden Sierra High, Oak Ridge, Ponderosa and Union Mine competed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at the Stockton Arena. Friday, eight advanced to next weekend’s CIF State Championships by placing in the top seven in their respective weight classes, the cutoff to reach Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.
Half of them competed in the championships for their respective weight classes: Bruin Sean Melton in the 126-pound division, Diamondback Sean Tow at 145s, Trojan Keaton Subjeck at 160s and Union Mine’s Mitchell Woods at 170s. Each took second place.
Subjeck, ranked No. 5 in the state, fell behind early in his title match against McNair’s Jim Wilson, falling 5-2. Wilson led 2-0 within a minute of the first period, and came close to pinning the muscular and skilled Subjeck, who has pinned more than 90 percent of his opponents this season.
“I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been,” Subjeck said shortly after the match. “I was shooting, faking. I sort of hesitated in the beginning and he took me down.”
In the last 30 seconds of the third and final period, Subjeck earned his two points with a near fall but Wilson’s early lead was good enough to pull off the huge upset.
“I just got after him,” Subjeck said of McNair who is also ranked in the state. “He’s real strong.”
Both grapplers qualified for the state meet that opens Friday and depending on how they’re seeded, the two could see each other again. Subjeck and Wilson both medaled last year in Bakersfield.
“Next week is all that matters,” Subjeck said. “That’s what the whole season comes down to.”
Melton lost to Johnny Callas of Nevada Union by a 2-1 decision in his championship bout. Melton dominated his first match with a 10-0 major decision over Cosumnes Oaks’ Phoenyx Iniquez.
As the competition grew tougher, Melton responded by posting a 6-4 decision over Escalon’s Tyler Lawerence before defeating Beyer’s Gage Pakinson 4-2 in overtime.
For a second consecutive week, Tow faced Central Catholic’s Ray Lomas in the finals and in a repeat of last Saturday’s Division IV wrestling tournament at Weston Ranch, Lomas prevailed 5-2 with the same identical score.
Lomas kept his shots focused on Tow’s knees and legs and led 2-0 after the first period and 5-0 entering the final two minutes.
Toward the end of Friday’s second matchup with Lomas ahead, Tow needed tape from D’back coach Tim Brown after suffering a head injury on a spill to the mat.
“Little over an inch, very wide,” Brown said of the cut on the back of Tow’s head.
Tow took an offensive approach toward Lomas but it wasn’t enough. Despite the setback, Tow’s second-place finish was a step-up from last year when the Union Mine junior took third.
“Sean knew he was a very defensive wrestler,” Brown said. “But the kid (Lomas) has a phenominal base; he’s a rock solid kid. Sean was just trying to crack in there. They knew (to win) it was going to be escapes and take downs. He’s got our number this year.”
Woods, the lone senior of the quartet competing in the finals, met Oakmont’s Peter Santos for the championship. Santos jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period before Woods rallied to tie the match at 2-2 in the third. Santos’ near fall before the buzzer led to his 4-2 decision of Woods.
“Mitch is going to have a size advantage,” Brown said prior to Wood’s match in which he was three inches taller than Santos. “But he (Santos) is very quick.”
In addition to the quartet that advanced, three Ponderosa wrestlers also qualified for Bakersfield. Bruin Nick Troquato, at 170s, took seventh place as he finished with a 5-1 record at the masters. Jorden Marinelli (195) pinned Hilmar’s Anthony Melo in the seventh-place match to punch his ticket to Rabobank while heavyweight Jeff Camilli took fifth place after securing his last match by forfeit.
Marinelli, a senior, worked hard on advancing to the state meet after last season’s disappointing 0-2 showing at the Masters.
“I’m very excited,” Marinelli said after beating Melo. “I worked 10 times as hard (in the off-season). I’ve grown as a person and as an athlete. This is my last chance and year to go off with a bang.”
Oak Ridge’s Zach Claiborne, at 182s, rounds out the eighth and final county wrestler to advance to the state meet. The junior took fourth place and was 6-2 over two days.
In the final team rankings, Oak Ridge fnished in seventh place with 75.5 points, Ponderosa was ninth with 67.5 points and Union Mine was 10th with 66 points. Last season, Union Mine took 15th place so a huge jump in team standings made Brown happy.
“We’ll be very happy if we finished in the top 10,” Brown said before the finals were over. “We’re a small school; we have limited number of wrestlers coming to this, we only have six. We’ve got four kids (moving to the state meet).”
Golden Sierra sent three to Stockton in Patrick Lewis (113), Jim Hansen (195) and Tommy Carey (HWT) but all three but were eliminated. Hansen went 3-2 in his last tournament as a Grizzly.
Also competing at the Masters but ousted were Oak Ridge’s Josh Ploke (106), Ponderosa’s Jacob Gonzales (113), Bruin Jacob Garcia (120) and Trojan Andrew Gularte in the same weight class, D’back Colin Hustrulid (126), Oak Ridge’s Trey Reese (126) and Cameron Miller (132), Ponderosa’s Christian Canepa (132), Union Mine’s Matt Cathey (138), Oak Ridge’s Tyler Ellerman (138), Bruin Trae Providence (145), Ponderosa’s Andrew Keane (152), D’back James Warden (160), Trojan Hugh Ellerman (170), Bruin Jacob Richards (182), Oak Ridge’s Preston Dean (195), Ponderosa’s Henry Sharoyan (220), Union Mine’s Chris Vasquez (220) and Oak Ridge’s Xavier Lopez (220) and Jacob Proul (HWT).