By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Wrestling Bruins Qualify Two To Divisionals
Michael Baliel of Modesto Christian High didn't check in for any flights on Saturday, Feb. 9, but found himself soaring through the air just seconds after his 195-pound wrestling match with Riverbank's Jose Ariza began.

Ariza locked and tossed Baliel with a violent and powerful head-and-arm just seconds into their consolation-bracket meeting at the Trans-Valley League Championships, repeating the feat at the start of the second round and squeezing tight for a pivotal pin.

In a match at the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium where victory could extend Ariza's season another week into February, the Bruin sophomore wasn't about to let Baliel - or advancement - slip out of his grasp.

"I was going to go for an ankle pick, but I saw him get really low, so I went for the head-and-arm," Ariza said afterwards. "I just wanted to win. It felt great to do it."

The win in the consolation semifinals propelled Ariza to a third-place bout, which he also won over Escalon's Travis Parks. Since the top-four wrestlers in each weight move on, Ariza and teammate Marco Medina will take on the tough field of qualifiers from the TVL, Golden Empire League, Mother Lode League and Southern League at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championships on Friday and Saturday in Olivehurst.

Medina was fourth at 106 pounds. He was trailing in his consolation semifinal, but whipped Ripon's Matthew Fisher to his back for a come-from-behind pin to make the bronze-medal match. There, he fell to Tommy Dias of Hilmar to settle for the fourth and final qualification.

Riverbank scattered another four wrestlers across the 14 weight classes, but couldn't sneak Ruben Lopez, Matthew Baca, Xzavier Vela or Ryan Stiner into a top-four placement, despite hard-fought matches.

"I was very proud of our wrestlers," Riverbank assistant head coach Gilbert Bargas said. "The kids did a great job."

The Bruins saw a bounty of top-five placements from their junior varsity lineup. Timothy Webb went 2-1 to battle for a second place finish while Luis Hernandez (fourth), Alejandro Ortiz (third), Adrian Salazar (fifth) and Alex Reyes (third) also did well.

Ariza and Medina will have their hands full amidst D-V competition, but a top-four medal and advancement to the SJS Masters isn't out of the question. For Ariza, his best shot may lie in his opening match, where a win over Jim Hansen of Golden Sierra (section honorable mention on the California Wrestling Newsletter) could leave him in terrific position to reach the finals.

The toughest wrestlers in this weight are likely to come from the TVL and Mother Lode League. Since Hansen was runner-up in the Golden Empire League, he represents the caliber of wrestler Ariza will have to beat to advance anyway. Medina draws the GEL champion in his first match.

The action begins with first-round bouts at 11 a.m. Friday.