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Prep Wrestling: Sultana retakes the MRL

Sultans earn league title with first-ever win against Oak Hills

HESPERIA • Sultana has wrestled Oak Hills tough in each of their dual meets over the last three years, only to fall in the final match of the night.

The Sultans reversed their fortunes Wednesday night as they held off the Bulldogs 34-26 to finish a perfect Mojave River League season at 4-0 and claim their first league title in since 2010.

The loss was Oak Hills first ever in league play and put the Bulldogs (3-1 MRL) in second place to end the regular season.

“This was huge,” Sultana senior wrestler Matthew Williams said. “Going into today we were mentally prepared.”

In a meet that saw four lead changes, Williams had a big role in the win. The Sultans’ 182 pounder — who is ranked fifth in state and second in the Southern Section — gave the Sultans the lead for good at 30-26 with a 10-0 major decision over Oak Hills’ Anthony Hernandez — ranked 30th in the state and seventh in the section —  in the second-to last match of the night.

“The plan was to hit him hard early and keep the pressure up,” Williams said.

Sultana’s Dylan Bollinger (195) finished off the win with a 12-1 major decision over Stewart Wood.

The pre-dual coin flip affected the outcome. Oak Hills was hoping to match Hernandez up with Bollinger, while Sultana wanted Williams to face Hernandez. The Bulldogs lost the coin flip, and had to send a wrestler out to the mat first on odd numbered matches, which included that 182-pound match.

“That was huge,” Oak Hills coach Dave Stidham said.

Another win that helped shift the meet in favor of Sultana was Fernando Melendez’s pin of Khaelin Webb (220) in the opening match of the night. Stidham said he didn’t expect Webb to lose.

Adam Welch (138) and Trent Smith (132) also recorded major decisions for the Sultans. Southern Section ranked wrestler Ryan Gonzalez missed the dual with a hyper-extened knee, but coach Rocky Humphrey said he should be ready for Saturday’s league finals.

Despite the win, Humphrey said there was something left to be desired for the Sultans.

“We didn’t wrestle to our potential,” Humphrey said. “Some of our best guys should’ve gotten techs or falls and they didn’t.”

Oak Hills had more pins than Sultana with falls from Justin Gillham (HWT) and Shawn Elder (160), whose pin gave Oak Hills a 26-20 lead prior to the Bulldogs forfeiting to Sultana’s Corey Griego (170) to tie the match one last time. Robbie Gajus (145) won his match with a 16-0 tech fall.

“We haven’t wrestled well the last two weeks,” Stidham said. “Tonight reassures us we’re doing good in the (wrestling) room.”

The win gave the Sultans an automatic berth into the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 Dual Championship on Feb. 9 at Los Alamitos, but Humphrey said he will not be sending his team.

He said if a team doesn’t have a good shot to win they shouldn’t go and risk injury, with the individual postseason set to begin the following weekend.

According to the CIF-Southern Section Dual Meet Wrestling Handbook, only the league champion is given an automatic berth into the tournament, and if it chooses not to go the second place team isn’t awarded an automatic spot.

Even with that said, Stidham said his team hasn’t made up its mind whether to go as well.

“If we were in Div. 3 or Div. 4, we would definitely go,” Stidham said. “Div. 1 is just loaded this year. We just got Michael Santiago back. We’ve gotta look at our health.”

Both teams will compete at the MRL Finals on Saturday at Hesperia.

SULTANA 34, OAK HILLS 26
106 — C. Mesa (S) dec. Kuznick (O),10-5.
113 — Delgado (O) dec. J. Smith (S), 9-6.
120 — Santiago (O) dec. Godina (S), 7-3.
126 —  Caldwell (O) dec. Ramirez (S), 5-0.
132 — Smith (S) major dec. Groves (O), 10-1.
138 — Welch (S) major dec. Scherfenberg (O), 10-1.
145 — Gajus (O) tech. fall Morales (S), 16-0.
152 — A. Mesa (S) dec. Ramirez (O), 7-2.
160 — Elder (O) pinned Lopez (S), 5:20.
170 — Griego (S) won by forfeit.
182 — Williams (S) major dec. Hernandez (O), 10-0.
195 — Bollinger (S) major dec. Wood (O), 12-1.
220 — Melendez (S) pinned Webb (O), 5:20.
HWT — Gillham (O) pinned Hartwell (S), 5:59.

C.J. Daft can be reached at christiand@vvdailypress.com or at (760) 951-6275.


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