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Wrestlers Hang Tough, Hodges Just Misses Masters
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After dispatching a league champion and league runner-up in back-to-back matches to reach the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semi-finals, Riverbank High senior wrestler Ben Hodges saw his heroic postseason rally come to an end after consecutive losses and a sixth place finish on Saturday at Summerville High.

Hodges toppled Marysville's Golden Empire League champ at 145 pounds with a first round pin to open his tournament, then upended the Southern League No. 2 seed from Denair with a third round pin just one match later. A semi-final loss to Trans-Valley League champion Jesse McDaniel (Hughson), paved way for a tightly contested defeat to Eric Pope of Mariposa in the consolation semi-finals. Hodges fell to Robert Waver of Calaveras to finish sixth. The top four medalists from Division V move on to this week's SJS Masters Championships.

"Ben did a great job, and he shows such leadership and determination," Riverbank coach Martin Ugalde said. "I would like to have 14 of him."

The Bruins sent four qualifiers to the D-V tournament, and saw Jose Martinez and Junior Tovar also sneak into the brackets as alternates. But Tovar failed to make his weight, and the remaining Bruin grapplers were unable to secure a win against the tough field of postseason opponents.

It was still a terrific finish for a young Bruin program that got progressively better with each week.

"Overall from being last in league last year and fifth this year, was a good building block for the program," Coach Ugalde said. "I thought they did great to wrestle to the best of their abilities."

Ugalde was an interim coach for the Bruins this season, but said he plans to coach the team again next year if another long-term coach doesn't step in to take the reins.

"If they don't find anyone else I'll be back," Ugalde said. "The main thing this year was getting to know the kids and I got a lot of help from the community."