TURLOCK — The Los Banos High wrestlers waited until their seventh and final shot at a Central California Conference title.
And then they seized it Thursday night by overtaking resident powerhouse Turlock and outlasting runner-up Pitman in the final matches. It amounted to a farewell gift for the Tigers, who switch to Division IV and the Western Athletic Conference next year.
"Our first (title) and our last," summarized first-year Los Banos coach Josh Adams. "This was also our first year beating Turlock, so there were a lot of firsts."
The CCC, conducted under the rounded roof of the Turlock High gym, demonstrated the league's balance. For starters, Los Banos squeezed past Pitman 206½-202, which breaks down to a takedown here and a decision there.
Another thing: Los Banos and Pitman both went 4-2 in dual meets, a win behind both Golden Valley and Buhach Colony. Points toward the title are weighed 50-50 between the dual meets and the season-ending tournament, so four teams had positioned themselves for the top prize.
Los Banos claimed it despite winning only three weight classes compared to Pitman's five. But the Tigers added important points via four thirds, none more important than heavyweight. Golden Valley finished third, 5½ points ahead of Turlock.
While Pitman heavyweight Pablo Guerrero won via fall, Andres Quintero of Los Banos and Wei-En Chen of Merced battled on the adjacent mat for third place. Adams had crunched the numbers and figured a pin would clinch it, and he smiled and clapped his hands when Quintero finished the job.
Earlier, both Los Banos and Pitman knew the 162-pound final between Tiger senior Manuel Lefevre and the Pride's Aaron Manley — the only final bringing together the top teams — would go far to decide the title.
It did. Lefevre, trailing 2-0 after two rounds, escaped to open the final round and seconds later drove Manley to the mat for the takedown and the pivotal 3-2 win.
"As soon as he pulled his head up, that opened up his legs. I took the shot," Lefevre said. "I held on for dear life. This was literally our last shot, so we took it."
Like Los Banos, Pitman also pursued its first CCC title, so the Pride's close miss offered little consolation.
"It never comes down to one match," Pitman coach Adam Vasconcellos said. "We had seven finalists and five champions. I don't think we could have wrestled any better."
Also licking their wounds were the host Bulldogs, CCC champions an amazing nine of the last 10 years.
"Very disappointing for us," coach Mike Contreras said. "It always came down to the last match this year. We didn't get the breaks this time."
No, they broke this time, for once, to Los Banos.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.