State

Golden Valley wrestler shows he's worth the weight

TURLOCK -- Two weeks ago, Joey Allen was wrestling at the 152-pound weight class for Golden Valley High.

It's probably the strongest weight class in the Central California Conference, though, so when the CCC Tournament came rolling around, Cougars head coach Chopper Mello approached Allen.

"It was a last-minute thing," Allen said. "He told me he thought I'd have a better chance of moving on if I moved up to 171s."

Allen made the jump -- he couldn't go to the next weight class because it was occupied by Daniel Lopez -- and he hasn't regretted it.

Allen won both of his matches Friday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Championships at Turlock High School, putting him one more victory away from a championships appearance. He's beating wrestlers several pounds heavier, and he's doing just fine.

The top six placers in each weight class will advance to next week's section Masters tournament at the University of the Pacific. Friday's semifinalists are guaranteed berths to Masters.

Allen pinned Tracy's Tyler Huckaby 2 minutes, 12 seconds into their quarterfinal, sending him to masters and into a semifinal matchup against Buhach Colony's Jose Gonzalez. At last week's CCC tournament, Allen placed second and Gonzalez was third.

"152 pounds is so stacked in the CCC," Allen said. "It's helped me become a lot better. But I never thought I'd do so well at 171 pounds.

"Everybody's bigger than me, but I'm still holding my own."

Mello's decision to move Allen up looked like a good one, especially when three of four CCC wrestlers advanced to the semifinals at 152 pounds.

The surprise in that bunch was Los Banos senior Adrian Espino. He placed fourth at last week's CCC tournament, but rolled into the finals with a 7-6 win over SJAA champion Dylan Smith of Tracy and a 9-6 win over Edison's Fernando Valle.

"It shows the CCC's a really tough league," Espino said. "Especially at 152 pounds."

Merced's Chris Urquizo -- Espino's semifinal opponent -- is ranked No. 1 in the state. And Pitman's Cesar Padilla is ranked No. 3 in the section.

"I wrestled Urquizo during league," Espino said. "He's the best I've faced this year.

"Win or lose (against Urquizo) I know I'm going to have to start wrestling better."

The Central California Conference showed its strength with 25 wrestlers in the semifinals. The Modesto Metro Conference was next with 15 semifinalists. Two of those in the semis were Davis 119-pounder Josh Delgado and Johansen heavyweight Rodney Smith.

Delgado spent just over two minutes on the mat. He pinned Richard Barreras of Merced 1:05 into their match, then took a minute to pin West's Daniel Aflague.

"This is a really tough tournament at 119 pounds," said Delgado, who faces state-ranked Fabian Garcia of Turlock in today's semifinal. "But it makes you better for down the road."

Delgado went 3-2 at Masters last year, two matches from a state meet berth. His goal this year is simple: "I want to go to state."

Smith also pinned both of his opponents, setting up a semifinal matchup against Los Banos' Luis Santillan. Smith is quicker on his feet than most heavyweights, and used his speed to roll Buhach Colony's Justin Carter for the pin in their quarterfinal.

"You have to be quick and agile, whatever weight you're at," Smith said. "I credit football. Playing football has helped my footwork so much."

Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at wdeboard@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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