For many wrestlers, the league tournament is the point in the season where the sport makes the transformation from a team sport to an individual one.
The goal is to advance from tournament to tournament each week with the hope of landing in Bakersfield on March 7 for the CIF State Tournament.
With a shot at a share of the Central California Conference championship, the emphasis will still be on the team today when the CCC Championships gets underway at Golden Valley High. The tournament is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with the final expected to begin at 3 p.m.
“Our first goal is the team,” Golden Valley coach Chopper Mello said. “We want to get as many team points as we can to give us a conference championship. Our other goal is get all 14 of our wrestlers through to next week. Both are realistic goals. We do it.”
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The Cougars have to edge out Pitman, which clinched a share of the title by going 5-0 in the CCC dual meets.
The top four finishers in each division in the CCC advance to next week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1A Tournament at Franklin High in Elk Grove.
For wrestlers the caliber of Turlock’s Raphael Herrera (126 pounds) and Albino Orozco (170), Pitman’s Logan Wolfley (160), Merced’s Isaiah Alva (145) and Tony Lopez (285) and Golden Valley’s Tanner Browing (113), there won’t be a lot of suspense today.
For others it will be a stressful day as they try to keep their season alive.
Meanwhile, Golden Valley will be trying to avenge a 29-28 loss to Pitman earlier this year.
“That one-point loss didn’t sit well with our guys,” Mello said. “It depends on the kid but most of our kids are gearing up for the team portion. Individual league titles are important but we still have guys making sacrifices for the good of the team.”
One example is junior Jacob Perry staying at 126 pounds so teammate Brady Mello can wrestle at 120 pounds to give the Cougars a stronger lineup. If Perry wrestled at 120 pounds he would have a better shot at a title without having to go through Herrera.
“I want everyone to win the CCC championship not just me,” Perry said. “It was kind of a tough decision. Not having to cut weight was part of it and I still think I have a pretty good chance.”