ESCALON - Brandon Williams of Escalon and Matt Dakin of Elk Grove, both seeking a barometer for their progress, found one Saturday at the annual Engel Tournament.
Conclusion: Both appear to be on schedule.
Williams wished for a better outcome, of course, in this matchup of seniors. Their entertaining thrust-and-parry produced a 17-7 win for Dakin in the finals of the 191-pound class -- he was named the tournament's outstanding heavyweight via a coaches poll -- but it also revealed two athletes gearing for the State Championships.
Last year, Williams (22-5) fell one win shy of State. Dakin (21-4), currently ranked fifth in the Sac-Joaquin Section, would have advanced if not for a costly knee injury at the Section Masters. Watching from a distance at Escalon was Riverbank coach Kevin Hejnal, a former San Jose State star who qualified for the Olympic Trials in both 1976 and '80.
"Both of them probably will be in the state tournament," Hejnal predicted. "That was a great match."
For Williams, the loss identified strengths and uncovered weakness, which is instrumental with the Section Masters looming on Feb. 19-20 in Stockton followed by State from March 5-6 in Bakersfield.
"It was a measuring stick. I might see him (Dakin) again," Williams said. "I need to condition harder and hopefully the next time I won't give up that five (a takedown and near-fall) at the beginning of the match."
The two-day Engel tournament once again performed its duty as a handy forum for wrestlers of all calibers. Everyone from small schools to split squads from large schools comprised the field, and Elk Grove dominated with seven weight-class titles.
The host Cougars, however, didn't disappoint. Sophomore Dylan Furtado (24-7) delivered a title at 127 en route to top lightweight honors.
"I'm hoping for the best. The competition is getting tougher," Furtado said. "There are a lot more nerves now, but they go away as soon as I'm on the mat."
The outstanding middleweight was East Union senior Stevyn Teeple, the winner at 135. Earlier, Oakdale freshman Juan Garza scored a reversal with five seconds left in regulation, then defeated Jeremy Snyder of St. Vincent's 6-4 with a takedown in overtime to win the 103-pound division.
Carlos Diaz of Hilmar captured the 112-pound crown the hard way by picking up Escalon's Jonathan Costa and taking him down in the final seconds to win 5-3.
"You're two and done in so many tournaments. Here you have good competition for advanced, good and beginning wrestlers," Hejnal said. "You can't beat match experience."