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Top wrestlers fight on at Division II section finals

Oak Ridge High hosts prelude to Masters
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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With the state wrestling tournament the ultimate goal for the area’s best, this weekend’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II tournament is a huge step.

After battling through tough league schedules and surviving their league finals, 12 wrestlers remain standing in each of 13 different weight classes. The top five from this competition will move on to the section Masters meet, the gateway to the state finals.

“The D-II Section and the Masters are whole new chapters in the season,” said Granite Bay coach Mike Lynch. “You never know what will happen there. There are upsets galore and unheralded wrestlers advancing abound.”

It is that unpredictability that makes this event so special, but there are a few things you can probably count on.

The 130-pound division is going to be a battle. The Sierra Foothill League staged a spectacular show in that weight class, and its top four are now joined by other strong performers in a packed chase for five spots at Masters. Oakmont’s Jake Elliott won the SFL final in overtime over Roseville’s Dylan Jankovich.

“Jake has been performing very well all season, and if he can continue with his aggressive style, it should be a good weekend for the Oakmont sophomore,” said Oakmont coach Dave Wells. “There are going to be some tough opponents such as Ponderosa, but the toughest competition should come from his own league in Jankovich and (Austin) Branum of Del Oro. I'm very happy with the way Jake has progressed this season, he has really tightened up his style, which has led to less mistakes and more wins during the close matches.”

“Probably the most competitive weight class is where Oakmont's Elliott and Roseville’s Jankovich are wrestling,” Lynch said. “Those two had a barnburner of a finals match at the SFL. Look for them to battle deep into the qualifying rounds and on to the CIF State Meet as well.”

One of the special athletes at the tournament is Del Oro’s 152-pound champion, Jesse Stafford, who is one of the best overall wrestlers in the region.

Woodcreek is led by a pair of league champions at the lighter weights in Sean Merigold (103) and Peter Santos (125).

“I expect them to both not only go to but place at Masters,” said Woodcreek coach Doug Mason. “Angelo Ciaraglia (second in the SFL at 135 pounds) has a great shot at qualifying for Masters.”

In addition to Jankovich, who is very capable of winning the 130-pound division, Roseville is paced by 171-pound league champion Ryan Fratto, who is in good position to reach the Masters meet.

Lynch has high expectations for his young Granite Bay contingent, as he knows that anything can happen at an event like this one.

“Charlie Gordon (SFL 160-pound champion) is a prime candidate to advance. He is a two-time SFL champ,” Lynch said. “All of our qualifiers are looking to advance this week, and all go into the competition with as good a chance as anyone to make it happen.

“It’s an even field even though some weight classes are more challenging than others. That very level of challenge is one reason that some wrestlers advance. Good ones sometimes knock each other off. A top wrestler sometimes drops a match unexpectedly, falters, and gets eliminated and other kids get through that did not necessarily expect it.”

It all gets started at 11 a.m. Friday morning.

Know and Go:

CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II wrestling tournament

When: Friday and Saturday, Feb. 19-20

Where: Oak Ridge High School, El Dorado Hills

Wrestling starts each day at 11 a.m.

Ticket prices:  $9 for adults, $5 for students

Top five in each weight class qualify for SJS Masters Tournament at UOP in Stockton, Feb. 26-27.