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Prep Wrestling: Sultana, Oak Hills qualify 12 to Individuals
HESPERIA • Sultana and Oak Hills each qualified 12 wrestlers to the CIF-Southern Section postseason from Saturday’s Mojave River League Finals.
But their coaches had different perspectives on how their teams fared.
Oak Hills coach Dave Stidham was excited about his team’s number of qualifiers, which included four champions and six finalists.
“It’s a great day,” Stidham said. “We had what we call our blackout practices this week to get the kids refocused, and it looks like it’s paying off. You can tell their momentum is beginning to shift.”
Meanwhile, Sultana coach Rocky Humphrey saw room for improvement after his 12 qualifiers all reached the championship round but only five came away with titles.
“I really feel we under-performed. ... It’s bittersweet,” Humphrey said. “We have to get up off the bottom better. We’ve got to not give up our arms on the bottom. Those are two things that are going to be our focus for the next couple of weeks.”
Humphrey pointed to four championship matches where his wrestlers struggled to recover from being in a bottom position.
For Oak Hills, the champions were Jordan Gasca (113 pounds), Michael Santiago (120), Anthony Hernandez (195) and Justin Gillham (HWT). Hernandez was state ranked at 182 pounds, but moved up a weight class for the postseason and decisioned state-ranked Dylan Bollinger of Sultana 12-10 to win the upper-weight MVP award.
Sultana’s Corey Griego (170) won his third league championship when Oak Hills’ Stewart Wood injury defaulted. Teammates Matthew Williams (182) and Trent Smith (126) — the lower-weight MVP — won their second league titles with falls, and Fernando Melendez (220) and Ryan Gonzalez (132) also won titles.
Hesperia qualified the fewest wrestlers to CIF-SS Individuals with five, but boasted three league champions in Jacob Shurtliff (138), Kenny Ortiz (145) and Frank Francis (152). Ortiz and Francis both won championships last year. The Scorpions were the only team to go unbeaten in championship matches.
Shurtliff won with a reversal against Sultana’s Andrew Welch with about 10 seconds to go to win by two points.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulder,” Shurtliff said. “That was one of my only goals, to take league and make it to CIF and hopefully go on to Masters and State. I wasn’t about to let that get out of my hand.”
Apple Valley won the first of its two championships when Gabe Hawkins decisioned the Sultans’ Christian Mesa 7-5.
Hawkins trailed in the scored period when he scored a reversal and then a near fall to take a 7-4 lead. Mesa beat Hawkins in triple overtime in their teams’ dual match after Mesa scored a takedown with about 2 seconds to go.
The other Apple Valley champion was Robert Rodriguez (160), who scored a pin in the finals. The Sun Devils will advance six wrestlers.
“These kids did really well,” Apple Valley coach Rick Hernandez said. “They finished where I thought they would, but again, there were a couple of surprises from first-year guys that took second or third. That right there blows my mind. This is a tough league.”
Serrano will send seven wrestlers to CIF. The Diamondbacks didn’t have a champion, but Nate Buckner (126) and Josh Mendoza (220) each made a championship match.
The CIF-SS Eastern Division Individual Championships will be held at Oak Hills on Feb. 16-17.
MRL WRESTLING FINALS
Trent Smith, Sultana, 126
Anthony Hernandez, Oak Hills, 195
106 — Hawkins (A) dec. C. Mesa (S), 7-5; 3rd: Hernandez (H).
113 — Gasca (O) dec. J. Smith (S), 5-0; 3rd: Kelly (Se).
120 — Santiago (O) dec. Godina (Su), 2-0; 3rd: Inda (H).
126 — Smith (Su) pinned Buckner (Se), N/A; 3rd: Caldwell (O).
132 — Gonzalez (Su) dec. Gajus (O), 6-2; 3rd: Martinez (Se).
138 — Shurtliff (H) dec. Welch (Su), 12-10: 3rd: Scherfenberg (O).
145 — Ortiz (H) dec. Mesa (Su), 3-2; 3rd: Ramirez (O).
152 — Francis (H) major dec. Freeman (A), 11-0; 3rd: Barden (O).
160 — Rodriguez (A) pinned Elder (O), 1:01; 3rd: Fiedler (Se).
170 — Griego (Su) won by injury default over Wood (O); 3rd: Early (A).
182 — Williams (Su) pinned Bernal (A), 0:45; 3rd: Hogan (Se).
195 — Hernandez (O) dec. Bollinger (Su), 12-10; 3rd: Kang (A).
220 — Melendez (Su) pinned Mendoza (Se), N/A; 3rd: Jones (O).
HWT — Gillham (O) pinned Hartwell (Su); 3rd: Robles (Se).
C.J. Daft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (760) 951-6275.