Eric Osmer hasn’t taken one of his wrestlers to the CIF State Meet since 2010. So the Buhach Colony coach promised himself if junior Jay Johnson qualified for state last week at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet he was going to cherish the moment.
“Let’s put it this way,” Osmer said. “When Jay Johnson won his match to qualify we hugged so tight we both cried.”
Osmer made good on his promise to himself. He cherished the moment by taking a walk around Stockton Arena by himself.
“I had to calm down,” Osmer said. “I just kept thinking we got another guy through. He’s taking me to the big show. I was just so proud of him.”
The relationship between a coach and a wrestler is different than a lot of sports because the amount of time spent together. There’s the hours spent in the wrestling room, the long drives to tournaments all over the state and the weekend tournaments that last all day.
So when a wrestler earns their way to the biggest tournament of the season it’s a special moment for his coach as well.
Especially when you’re coaching a senior who had just one more chance to get to state like Atwater’s JoJo Ochoa.
“Last week was a pressure cooker,” said Atwater coach Nelson Medeiros. “We were trying to do everything we could to make it to the next round. We tell our kids go 1-0 in this round. JoJo wrestles a lot of close matches so it was high stress, fast heart beats and a lot of sweating.”
Johnson and Ochoa are two of 11 area wrestlers headed to Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena today for the state meet. The action starts at 9 a.m.
Also competing today will be Golden Valley’s Tanner Browning (113 pounds) and Ethan Morse (145), Merced’s Romeo Ontiveros (152) and Tony Lopez (285), Los Banos’ Tyler Felix (113), Hilmar’s Antonio Melo (182) and the Dos Palos trio of Adrian Marrufo (120), Nathan Pimentel (145) and Izzac Suarez (152).
After a seven year drought of not sending any wrestlers to state from Atwater, Ochoa will make it three straight years of state qualifiers following his older brother Danny Ochoa in 2012 and Kyle Thorpe (2013).
“For us, it’s huge to get a guy to state,” Medeiros said. “It’s a milestone. We get kids with a clean slate as far as wrestling goes. We don’t have any feeder programs. There’s no junior high wrestling at the middle schools in Atwater. When we can get a kid to state it’s a huge accomplishment.”
When coaches go through droughts of not getting a kid to state it can be tough.
“We had a lot of success in the mid 2000’s,” Osmer said. “I felt good about myself and what we were doing. Then the last four years we haven’t had anybody get close. We’ve had guys who could have made it but because of injuries or whatever they didn’t.
“I started to doubt myself. You think maybe I just got lucky, but Jay making it lit a fire.”