Wrestling season highlighted by 45th El Cajon Invitational tournament

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The El Cajon Invitational wrestling tournament rolled out its 45th edition Dec. 18-19 at Olympian High School in Chula Vista, With 42 teams participating from throughout San Diego and Imperial counties, as well as from Arizona and Washington, it remained one of the San Diego Section’s showcase tournaments.

The tournament annually features returning state meet qualifiers, state medalists and CIF divisional champions to provide a measuring stick for section mat men. This year’s tournament was no different.

The El Cajon Invitational wrestling tournament rolled out its 45th edition Dec. 18-19 at Olympian High School in Chula Vista, With 42 teams participating from throughout San Diego and Imperial counties, as well as from Arizona and Washington, it remained one of the San Diego Section’s showcase tournaments.

The tournament annually features returning state meet qualifiers, state medalists and CIF divisional champions to provide a measuring stick for section mat men. This year’s tournament was no different.

“Over the last five years, the competition has steadily gone up,” explained Valhalla High School head coach Steve Bulette, who serves as tournament director. “It’s our goal is to have a well-run and competitive tournament in a venue that is spectator friendly, and one that finishes at a decent hour.”

The tournament was moved to Olympian High School this year due to on-campus construction at Christian High School in El Cajon

The Rancho Bernardo Broncos won the team title with 251.5 points to top the Northview Vikings, who finished with 213 points in second place. Auburn (Wash.) finished third with 191.5 points, followed by Poway in fourth place with 187 points, Marana (Ariz.) in fifth place with 159 points and Sultana in sixth place with 151.5 points.

The tournament title was a big deal for the Broncos, who had 10 of 14 wrestlers earn medals, as Northview and Sultana finished first and second, respectively, at last season’s Southern Section Northern Division finals.

The Broncos also flexed their collective muscles against local competition. Rancho Bernardo finished 125.5 points ahead of Ramona, its nearest San Diego Section challenger. The Broncos nearly doubled the point margin on the Bulldogs, who finished with 126 points.

Helix (ninth place, 117.5 points) and Valhalla (11th place, 105 points) were the top finishing teams from the Grossmont Conference. Steele Canyon (15th place, 79 points), West Hills (18th place, 63 points), Granite Hills (23rd place, 37 points), Monte Vista (26th place, 32 points), Grossmont (28th place, 29 points), El Cajon Valley (33rd place, 20 points) and Christian (38th place, 12 points) rounded out participating East County teams.

Helix and West Hills both produced individual finalists at this year’s event. Helix senior Greg Landeros finished runner-up in his 152-pound weight class following a 2-1 setback to Auburn’s Michael Yadon while West Hills’ Seth Mona finished runner-up to Poway’s David Scirvnor by a 3:25 pin in his 160-pound division.

Overall, 17 Grossmont Conference wrestlers picked up medals.

Helix and Valhalla led the East County field with four medal-winners each while West Hills had three medalists and Granite Hills had two medal-winners. Steele Canyon, Grossmont, Monte Vista and El Cajon Valley each recorded one medalist.

Helix medalists also included senior D’Rell Gist (third at 182 pounds), Marcus Tucker (fourth at 106 pounds), Spencer Phan (sixth at 113 pounds) and Benji Gonzalez (sixth at 160 pounds).

Valhalla’s medal-winners included Will Hawkins (fourth at 138 pounds), Matt Muralt (fifth at 132 pounds), Gage Bulette (fifth at 145 pounds) and Mason Callahan (eighth at 152 pounds).

West Hills’ Kevin Ahkey placed sixth at 220 pounds while teammate Diego Sanchez placed eighth at 182 pounds.

For Granite Hills, Victor Garcia placed seventh at 285 pounds while Alex Love placed eighth at 160 pounds.

Also earning medals were Steele Canyon’s David Lipscomb (fourth at 152 pounds), Grossmont’s Daniel Villegas (sixth at 152 pounds), Monte Vista’s Andres Lopez (seventh at 120 pounds) and El Cajon Valley’s Nicholas Poliza (eighth at 126 pounds).

Helix won last season’s Grossmont Hills League dual meet championship and looks to be a strong contender to repeat this season.

“We hope to win the league again,” fourth-year Highlander coach Adam Krzywicki said. “We’re looking to push higher in CIF (Division I). We were third last year.”

Helix opened the season by placing second at the Carlsbad Invitational; the Scotties placed 12th in the 63-team field at the Hamada Classic at La Costa Canyon the following week.

The Highlanders look to get stronger in the coming weeks.

“We still haven’t have a full line-up at these tournaments so far,” Krzywicki said. “We still haven’t had our top wrestler, Trence Gillem, compete yet. He is a returning state meet place-winner. He took eighth last year. He also was second at CIF and third at Masters (the section’s state qualifying tournament).”

Bulette said his team remains young but is picking up steam on the mat.

“We’re junior heavy,” the Valhalla coach said. “Technique-wise and maturity-wise, we’re way ahead of last year. I think we’re going to give teams a good run for their money in conference. I think we have a shot at qualifying a few kids for state.”

Monte Vista, which also competes in the Grossmont Hills League, has started the season 2-1 in dual meet competition. “We’ll be real competitive in Grossmont Hills League duals,” Monarch coach Mat Simone explained. “The team to beat is going to be Helix.”

Monte Vista will compete at the Division III enrollment level this season. Simone expects his team to be competitive there. “I think we’ll make the cut for the CIF dual team tournament (again), but it’s going to be tough with both Brawley and La Costa Canyon in our division this season,” he said.

Brawley has seemingly had a stranglehold on the division title with 15 consecutive CIF team championships since moving into the San Diego Section while North County powerhouse LCC moves down from Division II this season.

The Monarchs will host their own tournament on Jan. 16. Twenty-one full teams are expected to compete at Monte Vista High School.

Notepad

Rancho Bernardo advanced five wrestlers to this year's ECI finals, with two winning individual championships.

Runner-up Northview had seven individual finalists and five weight class champions.

“It was a good tournament for us,” Rancho Bernardo coach Joe Eddie Terribilini noted. “We wrestled really well. Our goals are to finish the season strong, be one of the top teams in the county and put kids on the medal podium.”

The Broncos will compete in the Division II enrollment level this season. The Broncos finished second at last season's CIF dual meet championships and third at CIF individual championship tournament.

Weight class champions at this year’s ECI included Ramona's Jeff Ramsthaler (106), Northview's Dominick Arellano (113), Poway's Cameron Santiago (120), Northview's Richie Casillas (126) and Ricky Marin (132), Rancho Bernardo's Chaz Franchina (138), KOFA (Ariz.)'s David Castandea (145), Auburn's Yadon (152), Poway's Scrivnor (160), Northview's Stephen Comstock (170), Rancho Bernardo's Chasen Blair (182), Marana (Ariz.)'s David Tilley (195), KOFA's Sergio Gutierrez (220) and Northview's Jackson Serna (285).

 

Poway's Santiago earned the Most Valuable Lower Weight award with four pins and a technical fall while Marana's Tilley won the MVP upper weight award with three pins.

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