Wrestling: Vacaville wins 24th straight MEL title, Wood takes third

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| Wrestling: Vacaville wins 24th straight MEL title, Wood takes third

Another season, another Monticello Empire League wrestling championship for Vacaville High School.

The Bulldogs advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to the finals Saturday at Napa’s Messner Gymnasium to easily win the MEL title the 24th consecutive year.

Of those 14 in the finals, Vacaville came away with 12 champions and two second place finishers to top the leaderboard with 310.5 team points.

Rodriguez (200.50) was the runner-up with one champion, eight second place wrestlers and one taking third.

Will C. Wood (162) was third in the team standings, two of their wrestlers taking second, one claiming third and eight finishing in fourth.

Host Vintage (155) was fourth, Napa (130) was fifth and Armijo (107.5) was sixth at the league championship.

“It’s not wrong to do this, but I think a lot of people take our success at the league level for granted,” said Vacaville co-coach Clint Birch, who leads the program alongside Armando Orozco. “To have won it for 24 straight years, that means no mistakes, no bad year, no injury or flu excuses. All of those things have to be set aside. For the past teams and this year’s team to be able to consistently strive for excellence is pretty amazing.”

Despite Vacaville’s dominance, Rodriguez was the first to crown a champion. Isaiah Ferrando scored an 8-3 decision over Vacaville’s Dennis Pendergraft (1-1) to win the 106 pound weight class.

But it was all Vacaville after that as the Bulldogs reeled off nine straight finals wins.

Contributing to that streak were TJ Ruiz (113 pounds, 2-0), Jacob Peralta (120, 2-0), Connor Shirar (126, 2-0), Zane Martin (132, 2-0), Lawrence Saenz (138, 2-0), Max Polly (145, 3-0), Tyee Ducharme (152, 2-0), Cole Chapman (160, 2-0) and Coulter Malone (170, 2-0).

Saenz may go down as the best MEL wrestler ever after winning his fourth league title. Even more impressive, Saenz never lost a single MEL dual or tournament match during his four year varsity career.

Vacaville’s Eric Hayward reached the 182 pound finals after beating Wood’s Josh Beshears in a tightly contested 8-7 decision. Hayward went on to lose in a close 8-6 finals decision to Vintage’s James Robert, who became the first Crushers wrestler to win a MEL title in seven years.

Chris Island (195, 2-0) got the Bulldogs back on track with a finals win over Tommy Nguyen of Armijo at 195 pounds. Nate Gomez backed Island up with a 7-0 championship win over Wood’s Will Elder at 220 pounds.

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Elder had bested Gomez in a Ultimate Tie-Breaker a few weeks ago in Vacaville’s dual with Wood.

“That was great to see — that was one of Nate’s last chances to get his name on the board in our wrestling room,” Birch said. “If you win league, or any time you win in the postseason, your name is put on the board and we have names going back to 1963. So it’s important to these kids and that was Nate’s chance and he did it.”

Jake Levengood scored two pins to easily win the heavyweight class.

Saenz won the Dave Nelson Lightweight award, while Vintage’s Robert was the Larry Nelson Heavyweight winner. The annual Coach of the Year award was scrapped before the season to prevent any conflicts.

“We really wrestled well,” Birch said. “I was trying to tell the kids, part of tradition is doing your job in the moment to make people remember who we are in the past, and I thought our kids did that.”

For Wood, Elder (220, 1-1) and Javier Contreras (Heavyweight, 1-1) took second place honors. Josh Beshears (182, 1-1) was placed third.

Next up for Vacaville and Wood is the Sac-Joaquin Section Divison 1A Championships at Downey High School in Modesto.

http://www.thereporter.com/general-news/20180212/wrestling-vacaville-wins-24th-straight-mel-title-wood-takes-third

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