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And Then There Were Four Bruin Wrestlers Move On To Division V Championships
The ever-improving wrestling program at Riverbank High just took one small step for fans and one giant leap for student-body kind.

Four Bruin wrestlers and another three alternates landed medals from the Trans-Valley League Championships in Ripon on Saturday, signaling Riverbank's best league finale showing in over six years.

Javier Gaxiola, Ruben Lopez, Jesus Carillo and Ben Hodges all landed top-four finishes, and will enter the first day of the Division V Championships in Tuolumne on Friday,

Martin Carillo, Jose Martinez and Junior Tovar placed fifth, and will hope for a vacancy to allow their participation at the same event.

"The future looks pretty good for us right now," Riverbank coach Martin Ugalde said. "I thought we wrestled pretty good considering we got four wrestlers and another three alternates in position to go to divisionals."

The Bruins, who were winless in TVL duals, topped both Orestimba and Modesto Christian in TVL Championship scoring, landing 60 team points in fifth place overall.

They could have finished even higher, but 189-pound Angel Duarte was a no-show at the event. Duarte was seeded first in his bracket, and would likely tallied up another 15 or more points, had he made the trek.

"I don't have any idea where he was," Ugalde said. "It doesn't make any sense why a senior, rated No. 1 at his weight, would be a no-call, no-show."

Javier Gaxiola was seeded third in the tournament, but landed Riverbank's top medal after a thrilling upset in the semi-finals of his heavyweight bracket. He was trailing Escalon's Joey Gutierrez (No. 2 seed) by a healthy margin, but gained late control and pinned the Cougar grappler with 15 seconds remaining in the second round.

Gaxiola dropped a 10-2 score against Devin Azevedo of Hilmar to settle for second.

"I was kind of surprised by Javier," Ugalde said. "That guy was beating him in the semifinals, but he got him onto his back and he held on for the win."

Lopez landed a clutch win over Hilmar's Roberto Higeria before finishing fourth at 112, and watched Jesus Carillo (125) and Hodges (145) nab clutch consolation bracket wins to collect the same honor.

Tovar led his opponent by one point in the same round of the bracket, but allowed a last-second takedown to force a one-point loss and eventual fifth place finish (140). Martin Carillo (119) and Martinez (132) suffered similar fates.

Riverbank also saw seven medals from junior varsity wrestlers. Alejandro Raya, Omar Lopez, Matt Baca, Eddie Guardado, Alberto Perez, Victor Machuca and Alfredo Reyes brought home the JV hardware.

Ugalde said he will keep up the pace of conditioning to keep wrestlers fit for this week's divisional action, specifically rounds of six and seven minute matches on the mat.

Gaxiola's high finish represents Riverbank's best seed into Friday's D-V Championships at Summerville High. He will open action with the Golden Empire League No. 3 seed. If he wins, he advances to a meeting with either Mother Lode League No. 4 seed David Valentine (a freshman) or Southern League champion Mario Ramos of Waterford. Gaxiola is also on the same side of the bracket as MLL champ Bill Danner of Argonaut (a senior).

Lopez has a tough draw with SL champ Edgar Gomez of Waterford in the opening round. Hodges and Jesus Carillo will both wrestle the Golden Empire League No. 1 seed to kick off tourney action.

The top four wrestlers in each weight move on to next week's Masters Championships.