STOCKTON — Grace Davis High senior Gabe Gonzalez remembers too well how his season ended a year ago.
"Lost the match to get to the seventh-place match," he said, as though the words were burned into his brain. He talked about getting to the State Championship, and how he missed. Barely.
A word to all Sac-Joaquin Section Masters qualifiers: Gonzalez doesn't plan on falling short next week.
The Davis senior (33-7) rolled through the Division 1 South Divisional's 160-pound class like an 18-wheeler down the interstate Saturday at Lincoln High's classy new gym. He whipped four opponents via pin, including Beyer senior Luis Rebolledo in a final that lasted only 33 seconds, to grab his share of the awards.
"He (Rebolledo) is tough," said Gonzalez, in reference to the opponent he defeated via third-round fall at last week's Modesto Metro Conference final. "I caught him in a tough spot and he was just stuck."
Gonzalez needed overtime to beat Rebolledo (29-8) at Pitman's Rumble In the Jungle two weeks ago, but he's clearly moving forward. So are the rest of the top six placers in each bracket who advance from Lincoln to the Masters across town next week at Stockton Arena.
A few minutes after Gonzalez's handiwork, Beyer senior Zach Andrews survived a back-and-forth match against Chavez's Jonique Andrews and captured the 171-pound title with a pin with a minute left.
Andrews (39-7), seemingly in trouble though he led 11-9 early in the third period, took charge with a nifty reversal. The title lightened his upcoming physical load.
"I left my headgear at practice last week, and coach (Tim Louis) said I had to do 3,000 pushups unless I won," Andrews said. "That was plenty of motivation."
One of the day's major surprises was Enochs' lanky junior Wayne Green, an unlikely finalist (145) who didn't make the team until the day before the league season. Wrestling two classes above his norm, Green rallied to the title match before he lost by technical fall 17-2 to Los Banos' Greg Hartman.
The meet's tone was set by Pitman, which finished high at several tournaments but didn't rise to the top until the Divisional. The Pride, anchored by champions Andrew Perez (135), Robert Vasquez (140), Gustavo Verver (189) and heavyweight Pablo Guerrero, won the team title over runner-up Los Banos and third-place Davis. Nine from Pitman will go to the Masters after a performance that even surprised coach Adam Vasconcellos.
"We were so close. Finally, our kids put it together on the same weekend," Vasconcellos said. "It helps to win the one-point matches. We wrestled a perfect weekend."
Pitman responded with authority over last week's loss to Los Banos in the Central California Conference final. After a coach's recount, the 4½-point margin was reduced to 1½ points, a flimsy difference that surely motivated the Pride at Lincoln.
The CCC's strength clearly rippled through the 26-team field. Turlock crowned three champions -- Garrett Fortado (103), Fabian Garcia (119) and Brandon Egleston (125) -- which wasn't bad for a fourth-place finisher in conference. Egleston and Garcia did nothing to tarnish their respective No. 1 rankings in the section.
And just to pound the CCC's point home, Buhach Colony sophomore J.T. Goodwin whipped through the 215-pound class with a pin, two technical falls and a 16-7 major decision in the final over Esteban Chavez of Tokay.
All the above will bring their best back to Stockton next week.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.