Miners hope to oust perennial powers Del Oro, Ponderosa
Considering it is the first time they’ve qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Team Wrestling Tournament in five years, it would be easy to understand why Nevada Union’s Miners might just be happy to be here.
But judging by the intense atmosphere inside “The Mine” Wednesday afternoon, the Miners still have some unfinished business they’re preparing to wrap up Saturday at Sacramento’s Rosemont High School.
Six teams will enter, one will leave with the Division II section championship.
“We want to go in there and have some fun and wrestle tough,” said second-year NU coach Nick Saldivar. “The pressure is not on us, but we do want to win it. We’re going to go there and wrestle tough and, from there, what happens … happens.”
Saldivar isn’t naive.
He’s well aware of what’s standing in the way.
Ponderosa has won 13 of the past 17 D-II crowns – and 19 section team titles in all – including last year’s title match over Sierra Foothill League power Del Oro, which has finished second to Ponderosa nine times in the past 12 seasons.
The last time Nevada Union competed in the team section championships was in 2005, when the Miners fell to eventual Division I champion Vacaville by a 49-9 score. Nevada Union’s best finish in the team dual championships came in 1995 and 1999, when the Miners took second place to D-I champ Vacaville on both occasions.
It’s likely, Saldivar said, that Ponderosa and Del Oro will be granted the top two seeds Saturday morning, which would likely leave the Miners (19-2) with the third seed. The top two teams are granted a first-round bye, while the four remaining teams fight for a berth into the semifinals.
Sierra Valley Conference runner-up Oak Ridge, which finished second to Ponderosa, is one of those teams. Metro Conference champion Burbank has qualified, but likely qualifier Hiram Johnson High had to take care of business against Rosemont Wednesday to settle the Metro’s second-team qualifier.
“We’re not taking our first-round match lightly,” Saldivar said. “But Ponderosa is a tough team. They’ve got tough boys, who smell blood and they go for it. If they see a week person on the other team, their whole team feeds off it.”
Although they would like to see how they measure up against the likes of Ponderosa, many of the Miners made it clear Wednesday that what they’re most interested in is a rematch with Del Oro. The Miners fell to the four-time SFL champion Golden Eagles 35-33 at Del Oro on Jan. 12.
“We missed out on our first league championship since I don’t know when by two points,” said NU 15-pound senior Trevor Painter. “We want to get those two points back.”
Painter, perhaps, took the loss to Del Oro more personally than the rest of his teammates. His 8-5 defeat to Del Oro junior Foster Fretland was a match he expected to win, he said, but in truth was just one of several matches that could have pushed NU past the Golden Eagles with such a slim margin of victory.
“I wrestled an awful match,” he said. “It was just really upsetting that if I’d won, we would have won.
“If we get to wrestle them again, we’re going to win. We’re definitely going to win. No doubt about it. That’s really the whole goal. Everybody wants to beat Del Oro.”
Saldivar said he felt like there were 13 team points left on the mat for the Miners in the SFL regular-season dual, something he hopes won’t be the case if a rematch comes to light.
“We felt like we beat them and that’s why we want to wrestle them,” Saldivar said. “We have to win all the matches we did the first time. And if we won a close match and didn’t pin, we need to pin. Some matches we lost or gave up a major decision, we’ll need to win or close that gap.”
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4240.
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