It's a long road to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Tournament.
Wrestlers who make it to this point are one step from their ultimate goal of the CIF State Meet, but it's also an accomplishment to get here.
And it's difficult.
"There isn't an easy match at Masters," Beyer senior Oliver Congleton said. "Everybody's good."
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The Masters Tournament begins today at the University of the Pacific's Spanos Center, the site of the CIF State Meet from 1988-2003. The Stanislaus District boasts a large number of sophomores who will be very competitive. A couple of these underclassmen made it to state as freshmen; this year, they all have realistic goals of reaching state.
And with several bunched at the same weight classes, they're going to provide some highlights competing against each other for this year and two more.
Here's a look at some of those sophomores:
- Christian Franks, Escalon. Franks got off to a slow start with a fourth-place finish at the Western Invitational at Modesto Junior College, but he's taken off since then. He was the runner-up at the prestigious Sierra Nevada Classic and is on a postseason roll. The top-ranked wrestler in the section won the Trans-Valley League championship as well as the section Division V title last week.
- Brandon Egleston, Turlock. Egleston is ranked No. 4 in the section but he's also coming off winning a section Division I South championship in a bracket that included three other section-ranked wrestlers. He also has tournament titles from the Western Invitational and Turlock's own California Bulldog Classic.
- Jake Congleton, Beyer. Congleton is the middle brother of three wrestlers out of Beyer. Oliver is a senior and gunning for his second state meet berth while Ford, a freshman, was a Modesto Metro Conference runner-up at 119 pounds. Jake Congleton won the MMC title and was a runner-up to Egleston at the Division I South tournament last week.
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- Andrew Perez, Central Catholic. He's ranked No. 2 in the section and he's one of the sophomores with some state experience: He went 2-2 in Bakersfield last year. Perez was a champion in the Western Athletic Conference and at the section Division V tournament last week. His brother Vincent was a senior at Pitman last year, and the two met in the finals of the Big Valley Classic, where older brother won.
- Wyatt Casey, Oakdale. Casey is the son of former Oakdale wrestling coach Dan Casey -- he continues to help out the program -- and is ranked No. 3 in the section. Casey's won a bushel of tournaments: the Lemoore Bash and Oakdale's James Riddle Classic in the preseason and the Valley Oak League and Division IV titles in the postseason.
- Fabian Garcia, Turlock. Garcia is ranked No. 1 in the section and No. 5 in the state and could be taking a different route to state this year. As a freshman, Garcia competed well but fell to an eighth-place finish at Masters. Garcia was granted an extra state berth, though, and took advantage by placing seventh in the state. This year, Garcia has been dominant, including a third-place finish at the prestigious Five Counties Invitational in Fountain Valley.
- David Ferry, Central Catholic. Ferry got a taste of the state meet last year, although he went 0-2 at Bakersfield. This year, he's poised to improve on that and his sixth-place finish at last year's Masters. Ferry's ranked No. 1 in the section and has an extremely tough tournament draw with himself, Union Mine's Cody Tow and Oakdale's Shane Tate on the same side of the bracket.
- Shane Tate, Oakdale. Tate was a Masters runner-up last year, and went 3-2 in the state meet, one victory from a top-eight finish and a medal. He's ranked No. 3 in the section this year, behind Ferry and Tow. Should Tate advance to the Masters semifinals, either Ferry or Tow would most likely be waiting for him.
- Trent Noon, Oakdale. He's ranked No. 8 in the section and won the Valley Oak League and Division IV championships. Noon is one of four Oakdale youngsters on this list, insuring the future for the Mustangs is bright indeed. Noon, like many of his teammates, opened the season with a title at the James Riddle Classic.
- A.C. Brown, Oakdale. The heaviest of the district's bright sophomores also played a key role for the VOL champion football team. Brown and Sonora senior Matt Skinner have formed a healthy rivalry, with Skinner beating Brown in the finals of the James Riddle Classic and Brown returning the favor at the VOL and Division IV championships.
Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.