By HOWARD SENZELL
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a dual meet that wasn’t decided until the final match, Maria Carrillo’s Evan Bluestone was the hero as his victory lifted the Pumas to a narrow win over host Rancho Cotate on Thursday night.
Bluestone’s 16-1 technical fall over Hai Hoeng in the 126-pound class gave Carrillo a 40-36 come-from-behind triumph. The Pumas trailed by a point when the junior came on the mat for the finale of the NBL contest.
“I’d never been in a position where my match determined whether the team won or lost,” Bluestone said. “I liked it.”
Bluestone established his superiority in the opening seconds as he took Hoeng to the mat with an ankle pick. By the end of the first round, he increased the lead to 6-1.
“Going to the second round, I knew the only way we’d lose the match was if I got pinned,” Bluestone said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Coach Tim Bruce was the picture of confidence as he gave final instructions to Bluestone.
“There was no way Evan was going to lose,” Bruce said. “He’s one of the best wrestlers around in his weight class.”
Each school won seven matches.
One of the most entertaining contests was in the 152-pound class where Rancho’s Joey Clay, who is 5-foot-7, defeated Travis Wilson, who appeared at least four inches taller. The senior pinned his opponent in the second round.
“You have to change strategy when wrestling an opponent that’s taller,” Clay said. “Instead of going for the body, you go low and take their legs out.”
Clay, who has a 28-2 record, did just that. He got Wilson off his feet midway through the second round and used his upper-body strength to get in position for the pin.
Last year, Clay was the runner-up in the NBL Tournament and finished 12th at NCS.
His father, James, is the new coach of the Cougars. He took over this week after Ryan Lunsford resigned. If the name is familiar to wrestling fans, it’s because the elder Clay wrestled for Rancho from 1983-86.
“I’ve helped out with the program through the years,” James Clay said. “This was the first match I’ve been the head coach.”
While he would’ve loved to get the win, James Clay was ecstatic the score was so close.
“I didn’t expect we’d do as well as we did,” he said. “I’m very, very proud of the kids.”
On a night when Carrillo was missing three wrestlers idled by of the flu, sophomore Jose Delgado had the quickest match of the evening. He took out Casey Perry in the first round.
“I got a takedown right at the start,” Delgado said. “Then I grabbed his elbow and kept him in position to get the pin.”
Delgado divides his time between wrestling and mixed martial arts.
“I’ve been doing mixed martial arts for six years and started wrestling last year,” he said. “The martial arts training helps me a lot in wrestling.”
Both schools have one more dual meet. Carrillo will face-off against Montgomery while Rancho will battle league leader Windsor.