State

Oakdale wrestlers pin down section crown

SACRAMENTO -- Charlie Gilstrap was no more important than any other member of Oakdale High's wrestling team Saturday, despite being the section's No. 1 215-pounder.

"In this tournament, it's all about being a complete team, top to bottom," the Mustangs' junior leader said. "A couple guys aren't enough to win."

No one doubted Gilstrap's belief, not after Oakdale won 11 of 14 matches to rout Foothill 49-13 and win its second Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV dual-meet title in three years.

And assistant coach Dan Casey says the Mustangs aren't done winning titles, either.

"We're young, just one senior, so we expect to be right here again the next couple of years," said Casey, who spent a decade as head coach and has been an assistant the last five years. "We've got a great freshman class coming in."

Oakdale wasn't the only Stanislaus District team celebrating a title: Central Catholic beat Escalon 60-15 in the Division V final, its fourth consecutive championship.

There was heartbreak for one team, though, as Turlock missed the morning weigh-in and was disqualified before it even had a chance to wrestle.

Saturday was the last time teams wrestled in dual-meet style. The focus shifts to individuals this week, as league meets begin a four-week run capped by the CIF State Meet.

Gilstrap said tradition had a role in the Mustangs' third consecutive trip to the final -- they fell to rival Sonora in last year's title match.

"Brent Noon, Jeff Cox and Brian Ching are always coming in to volunteer their time, making us better wrestlers," said Gilstrap, noting Noon and Cox are former Oakdale wrestlers. "They give us a lot of hand-to-hand work, as well as our technique. They have a lot to do with our winning."

While Oakdale was rolling from the start -- wins from Kevin Butler (152), Travis Phillips (160) and A.C. Brown (171) gave it a 13-0 lead -- Central had a tight battle early.

Central and Escalon split their first four matches, with the Raiders taking a 12-9 lead, before the momentum shifted.

Central's 215-pound Giovanni Sani avenged a loss to Thomas Martin, winning 4-3, then heavyweight Matt Galas topped Paul Brown 9-3 to extend the Raiders' lead to 18-9.

After a forfeit at 103, Central won the last seven matches by pin.

"We won a few matches early to swing it our direction," Central coach Steve Strange said. "Giovanni was big. Like the last time, it came down to who made the mistake."

Strange watched three-time defending D-I champ Vacaville wrestle Elk Grove for the Division I title as he talked.

"We beat Elk Grove in January, so if they can beat Vacaville, I think that's a special note for us," he said. "I think we're built for dual meets and tournaments. We have a very good, very balanced team."

Turlock's tournament was over before the Bulldogs got on the mat: They were 5 minutes late for the 7 a.m. weigh-in, despite staying in Sacramento on Friday night to avoid a long trip Saturday morning.

Meet director Rick Wanlin said a Turlock coach called at about 6:50 a.m. to say he was lost and was going to be late. Wanlin called section commissioner Pete Saco to explain the situation, and Saco made his ruling on the spot.

"If it had been an unavoidable incident, say an accident or something, it would have been different," Wanlin said. "But the commissioner said getting lost wasn't enough of a reason to miss weigh-ins."

Turlock arrived shortly after 7, was told of its disqualification and headed for home. The Bee could not contact a Turlock coach for comment.

It's not the first time a Central California Conference school has missed weigh-ins.

Buhach Colony was disqualified from the second day of the section individual tournament three years ago when its van was late for weigh-ins.

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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