Golden Valley wrestling coach Chopper Mello always loads his schedule in December to prepare for what’s always a tough run through the Central California Conference.
The goal is to get most of his wrestlers 20 to 25 matches before the Cougars get to league dual meets in January.
“I try to get our guys as many matches as possible,” Mello said. “We’ve wrestled every weekend for the last five weekends. Plus we’ve had three nonleague duals against Gregori, Enochs and Dos Palos.”
The Cougars (9-0) are one of the CCC favorites as they host another conference heavyweight in Pitman tonight as the conference season gets underway. The match is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. at Cougar Arena.
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Golden Valley has won four tournaments this year, including the Dinuba Tournament last weekend in which the Cougars had 11 medalists.
The Cougars feature a deep lineup led by lightweights Criselio Rivera (106 pounds), Tanner Browing (113) and Brady Mello (120).
However, there is no easing into conference matches with Pitman on the schedule tonight. The Cougars hope the strategic scheduling will pay off.
“We’ve worked hard in December to get to this point,” Mello said. “We’ll find out right away if we’re in the mix or not.”
Pitman features Logan Wolfley (160), one of the CCC’s top wrestlers.
Like the Cougars, the Pride has a deep lineup. Mello feels some of the middleweight matches could be key swing matches.
“Bonus points are huge,” Mello said. “They can win a dual for you. We need to get pins when we can. You also don’t want to give them up.”
Other matches tonight include Merced (5-1) traveling to Buhach Colony and Atwater at Turlock.
Merced has one of its deeper teams in recent years with Adam Vargas (106), Mark Taijeron (134 or 140), Isaiah Alva (145), Romeo Ontiveros (160), Kenneth Hamel (182) and Tony Lopez (285).
“I like our team if everyone is healthy,” said Bears coach Clayton Schneider. “Right now we’re banged up. I think we’re a better tournament team, but we’re a solid dual team.”
The Thunder are led by junior Jay Johnson, who won the 197-pound event at the Turlock Bulldog Classic last weekend.
Turlock should also battle for a CCC title. The Bulldogs are led by the trio of Raphael Herrera (134), Isaac Bertalotto (154) and Albino Orozco (172).
“Turlock is going to have a say in it, too,” Mello said. “They have their big three. Merced is solid, too.”
Atwater is led by senior JoJo Ochoa (220), who finished eighth at last week’s prestigious Doc Buchanan Tournament at Clovis.