Casa earns cross-town bragging rights with wrestling win over Petaluma

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — The P-Town beat-down was a Casa Grande show of wrestling strength as the Gauchos defeated Petaluma in the last regular-season meeting between the rivals Tuesday.

Leaving the Sonoma County League next school year, Casa Grande regained cross-town wrestling bragging rights with the 56-21 match win on the Gauchos home mat. The convincing victory also showed Casa Grande has a talented team that could place several wrestlers at the league and North Coast Section finals.

“This one was really important. It just gives us a lot of confidence as a team,” said Jack Fausone, Casa Grande’s best hope to medal at state.

Young in experience and lacking depth, Petaluma had some highlights led by Cole Pruett’s one-point win over Mike Nelson at 140 pounds.

“We were pretty fired up. I just tried my hardest,” Pruett said following the night’s best matchup.
Wrestlers are pushing for peak performances with the section finals a month away and the California Interscholastic Federation championships the following week.

With both Healdsburg and Windsor dominating league play, Casa Grande could be the best of the rest in the SCL.
Ian Bailey won by a pin 32 seconds into the 108-pound match to get Casa Grande going against Petaluma.
Sean O’Brien, one of the Gauchos’ state hopefuls, won by pin 43 seconds into the 152-pound match to warm up the mat for Fausone.

Wrestling at 160 pounds, up from his customary 154 pounds, Fausone used take-down after take-down to mount an 11-point lead over the Trojans’ Connor Ragozzino after one period.

Ragozzino did well to escape the many holds Fausone had on him.

Pushing for a pin halfway through the second period, Fausone settled for the 22-6 technical fall victory to end the well-contested match.

A year ago, wrestling at 147 pounds, Fausone captured a league title, placed third at sections, and won a match at the state championships.
Taller and adding a few pounds this season, Fausone aims to make the top eight at state.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot more cardio,” he said.

Fausone is doubling his running workouts to complement the strong wrestling shape he is in as the season’s biggest matches loom.

“There’s two types of stamina, wrestling and running. You need them both to be successful,” Fausone said.
The night’s closest match featured wrestlers who are among the Empire’s best. Pruett had an early first-period lead, but Nelson battled back to go ahead.

Nelson would execute a series of falls, with Pruett using reverses to keep the match close.
The wrestlers would go the full three periods, with Pruett finishing on top, 11-10, only after preventing Nelson from reversing or escaping before time ran out.

“That was real close. I just sat on his hips to keep him down and try to work my moves,” Pruett said.
“I’m stronger this season and I work on my technique a lot.”

Another hard worker is Erika Mihalca of Casa Grande, a state hopeful in girls wrestling.
While losing on a pin with just seven seconds to go in the 128-pound match against male opponent Blake Hartlieb, Mihalca showed why she could medal at the state championships.

“My wrestling technique has improved,” said the longtime judo competitor.
“There’s a lot of bad habits I have from judo that I’m trying to get rid of. I’m working on my shot, going for the legs well.”

After placing fourth at the state wrestling championships a year ago as a freshman, Mihalca wants a title this season.