TURLOCK — Isaac Bertalotto, Rafael Herrera and Albino Orozco, the “Big 3” of Turlock High wrestling, have sweated in the same practice rooms since seventh grade.
Bertalotto and Orozco have shared the same youth mats since third grade, in fact, and Orozco talked Herrera into trying out the sport six years ago. They’re seniors now, teen-aged veterans in one of the ultimate me-vs.-you endeavors.
“We all want to place (at the State Meet) as a group,” Herrera said. “We’ve talked about it since junior high – to do it as a group.”
They believe they’re in this together – Turlock’s team within a team – and their unity shined Saturday at the Turlock-hosted Bulldog Classic. Each won his weight class while Herrera was named the meet’s Champion of Champions as the Bulldogs rolled to another team title.
The threesome did qualify for the State Meet, the pressurized season climax each March in Bakersfield, in 2013.
Bertalotto campaigned hard through the consolation bracket and earned an eighth-place medal. Herrera went 2-2 and Orozco was winless in two matches.
Which means there’s more work to do.
Turlock’s 24-team tournament became an important stepping stone for the Big 3. Herrera, ranked second in the Sac-Joaquin Section behind Modesto senior Emilio Saavedra at 138, scored two falls and two tech-falls as he ripped through the 134s. He finished his day with a pin-by-cradle of Oak Ridge’s Christian Portilla in the second round.
Orozco dominated the 172s via a pair of pins and a 12-2 decision over Gavin Hummel of De La Salle in the final.
“No more slacking off. I haven’t taken off any days this year,” said Orozco, who placed fifth at last year’s Section Masters. The Masters and State is a big jump.”
Bertalotto’s competition was more nuanced. He found himself in the 154-pound final against Christian Dominguez of Central Catholic, a freshman who is coached by Bertalotto’s cousin Anthony Gonzalez. Yes, Bertalotto heard Gonzalez imploring his young prospect though Bertalotto held on 3-1. The Turlock star bled slightly from the mouth after it was done.
“If I go against any other guy, he (Gonzalez) would be in my corner,” Bertalotto said. “It’s all in the sport.”
Also helping Turlock to the team title was senior Juan Coronado, a first-year varsity wrestler, who fell in the 222-pound final. The Bulldogs totaled 202 points, far ahead of runner-up El Diamante.
“Turlock’s kids are relentless,” said Oak Ridge assistant coach Greg Ralston, who brought a 9-man contingent to Turlock while six traveled to Clovis for the Doc Buchanan Invitational. “Our kids say they (Turlock) won’t stop.”
Six mats covered the gym floor for the day-long meet, a staple of the Stanislaus District wrestling season. League competition starts soon as the winter warriors seek new confidence.
Modesto Christian’s burly Dillon Tarvin may have found some fresh momentum when he built a lead and eventually pinned El Diamante’s Joe Rangel to win the heavyweight class. Enochs junior Chase Larson reached the title match at 184 but was edged 3-2 by Hilmar senior Antonio Melo, who annexed his third tournament championship.
Another hard-fought final took place at 162 when Central Catholic junior Galhiel Dillard, after giving up a tying point for stalling in the closing seconds of regulation, parlayed an overtime takedown into a 5-3 win over El Diamante’s Josh Sanchez.
In a matchup of 108-pound freshmen, Waterford’s Ivan Gomez took home the title via a 21-4 tech-fall over Adrian Luna of Patterson. Gomez is the younger brother of former Waterford and Modesto Junior College star Erick Gomez. Jose Ruelas of Livingston earned the 140-pound title by defeating Tyler Kauanoe of Sheldon 7-3.
Cristian Garcia of Central Valley won the 147s with four victories, the last one 4-3 in the final moments over Caleb Conner of Waterford. Jay Johnson of Buhach Colony pinned all three of his opponents, including Darrly Aiello of De La Salle in the 197-pound final.
• DOC B – Modesto High’s Saavedra brothers suffered tough losses in their respective final matches at the Doc Buchanan tournament in Clovis.
Sophomore Israel Saavedra, a defending state champion, was defeated 11-6 by Durbin Lloren of Buchanan in the 120-pound final.
Emilio Saavedra, a senior, was pinned late in the third round of the 138-pound final by Uzo Owuama of Bloomington. Both Modesto stars were top-seeded.