FOLSOM — It took 350 matches spanning two days for El Dorado High to get its Division IV champion but it was worth the wait. Heavyweight Zach Brazell put a resounding exclamation mark on the tournament at Vista del Lago, pinning Manteca’s Steve Martinez late in the first period for the county’s only title.
After a first-round bye, pin and 5-2 win in the semifinals, Brazell had his spot in the finals to close Saturday. Looking to double underhook Martinez, Brazell got it and soon Martinez was on his back.
“He got a bear hug (on me) but I tripped him, he went down and I bull-rushed him onto his back,” said Brazell who didn’t qualify for Divisionals last year. “I think I did OK this weekend — a couple things I could have changed — but OK. I’m happy El Dorado has a champion.”
The tournament, dominated by Oakdale, featured the Sierra Valley and Western Athletic Conferences along with the Valley Oak League. El Dorado, with just seven wrestlers, finished ninth from a field of 21 teams.
Thirteen wrestlers in all from El Dorado and Union Mine competed at Vista, all vying for advancement to the Master’s Meet this weekend in Stockton. Only the top four from each bracket moved on.
Joining Brazell are teammates Jeremiah Romero (152) and Alex LeBaron (182). Both lost to wrestlers who reached the finals; Lebaron placed third while Romero took fourth.
“We were hoping to get four through (to Masters) but three is good,” Cougar coach Dave Pimentel said. “Overall we did well … ninth place with just seven kids from a small school — that’s pretty good to be top 10. The kids wrestled hard.”
The seven Cougars included league champions Marcus Douglas (132 pounds), Romero, LeBaron and Brazell. The six Diamondbacks featured conference champ Hunter Cannon (170) who was fourth Saturday to qualify for his first Masters.
LeBaron had a first-round bye, pinned his next opponent in the second period but lost a 6-3 decision to eventual champ Reggie Bland of Central Catholic. Against Sonora’s Jack Trent for third/fourth, LeBaron overcame a slow start to turn it one late in the second and after an escape in the third, added on for the 10-4 decision.
Romero gambled with 38 seconds left in picking neutral late in the third after a reset in a 4-4 match with Ga’lilel Dillard of Central Catholic. He tried but couldn’t score on the back-pedalling Dillard who held on 5-4.
“His guy was solid on the bottom and we didn’t think we could turn him. Jeremiah had the last takedown and looked better on his feet,” Pimentel said of the strategy.
For the Cougars, Friday’s championship rounds opened with Willy Gadow’s (106) 14-0 major decision of East Union’s Jason Betlej and ended with Brazell’s quick bear hug, yank-down and pin of Pacheco’s Joe Coronado. Gadow and Brazell joined LeBaron whose second-period arm-bar pin of Patterson’s Brad Gill was good for the fall as the three survived unscathed headed to Saturday.
Gadow went 2-2 to take sixth. Douglas went 0-2 and was involved in the lone county head-to-head matchup when he lost 8-6 to D’back Sean Berry. At 138s, Nathaniel Erskine also went 0-2, Daniel Carey (145) won his first over East Union’s Jesus Vasquez, lost his next, came back to pin Manteca’s Freddie Frietas in consolations before dropping a 7-3 decision to end his season.
Romero lost his first but rallied to take his next two to set himself up for a guaranteed trip to Stockton. He took Dillard down with 12 seconds left but Dillard rolled out and Romero didn’t get the call.
Cannon went 2-2, dropping his last match for third/fourth. He lost his first Friday but rebounded with a pair of wins, one in overtime, to be the only D’back to advance.
“The hard work paid off.” Cannon said. “My goal was to qualify (for Masters) and earn another week. Now I’ll try for state and see how that goes.
Berry went 1-2 as did Dillon Abel-Smith (152). Christian Beck (145) lost a tough 3-2 opener and his next to get eliminated, Chris Lee (120) bowed out in two and Cameron Cathey (126) was also 0-2.
“We were hoping to get one or two through. I’m happy for Hunter — last year he was a match short,” Union Mine coach Tim Brown said. “All the kids we brought belonged here. We had some good draws but we’re young and we’ll come back.”