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NU wrestlers cast eyes forward

FOLSOM – Sure, gold medals were high priorities for Luke Manuel and Zach Callas Saturday night during the Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Championships. However, those weren’t the only priorities, which will explain why the Nevada Union seniors walked off the mat at Folsom High School with mixed emotions.

Manuel emerged as the 152-pound weight class gold medal winner – and the distinction of becoming only the third Nevada Union wrestler to capture back-to-back section titles – yet he shrugged off the achievement with an eye cast toward another, bigger goal next week.

And even though he settled for silver in the 160-pound weight class, Callas saw signs of promise for the future in his hard-fought 7-4 loss against Ponderosa’s Justin Danz in the finals.



Next stop is the state tournament Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield. For Manuel, that’s where the gold truly matters.

“That’s what I’m really excited about. That’s what I’ve been training for,” said Manuel, a sixth-place medalist at state last year and currently ranked No. 1 statewide among 154-pounders. “I was just trying to stay fresh and not get too worked up about this. Next week is the one I want.”




Manuel was dominant en route to four straight victories, capped by a 12-1 triumph against Folsom’s Joe Lucas in the finals. With that, Manuel improved his season record to 43-1 and joined Paul Gross (1998-99) and Wade Sauer (2003-04) as two-time section champions at Nevada Union.

Along the way, he only allowed three points in four matches, all on escapes. Lucas, 33-10 this season, scored his only point on an escape in the final minute of the match. By that time, Manuel had gotten a takedown and worked a cradle for a near fall to go up 5-0 in the first period and extended the lead to 10-0 with his third takedown early in the third.

“I thought Luke wrestled great,” Nevada Union coach Shane Valdez said. “Lucas is solid and Luke pretty much handled him. He’s right where we want him to be going into state – healthy, confident and feeling strong.”

Again, a state championship is the ultimate objective.

“Our goal is always to make it to state,” Valdez said. “Winning here is a nice bonus, but you could finish sixth here and still win state.”

Callas would love to improve his place finish in Bakersfield, and he felt there was progress in his loss against a rival who is currently ranked No. 2 in California. Danz, a junior, now boasts a 41-5 season record.

“I’m glad I got to wrestle him before state,” said Callas, who is 37-5 this season. ” I definitely learned. There were a couple of moves I shouldn’t have allowed to happen. I know what to do now.”

A preview in December fell through when a knee injury forced Callas to forfeit a quarterfinal match to Danz at the high-powered Reno Tournament of Champions. Callas wasn’t at full strength this time, either, because he had battled illness through the week. No excuses were offered.

“I know Zach has been coughing, but the thing is, you’ve got to wrestle the way you are,” Valdez said. “Nobody cares about excuses this time of year. You just have to get it done, and I don’t think Zach let that bring him down. He was ready for that match.”

Callas faced an uphill battle from the start, as Danz went up 5-0 on a takedown and near fall in the first period. The Ponderosa wrestler scored an escape to make it 6-0. Callas launched his comeback with a single-leg takedown to pull within 6-2 and got another takedown to make it 7-4 with 11 seconds left in the second period.

Callas chose the down position to start the third period, but was unable get any closer as Danz closed out a win that clinched the team title for Ponderosa. For Danz, the win was a turnaround from last year when he lost to Manuel in the section 135-pound finals.

“If Zach gets to his feet, I think he takes the kid down and they go to overtime,” Valdez said. “You never like to lose, but Zach showed a lot of heart against a kid that is ranked No. 2 in the state and he learned a lot. Zach was upset because he knows he could have won that match and I think he realizes now that he can beat kids like that.”

Callas came from behind to post a 13-9 win in the semifinals against Escalon’s Sughue. Manuel won his semifinal 17-2 against Elk Grove’s Gavin Ludwig. The top six finishers in each weight class qualified for state.

Notes: Ponderosa prevailed against Elk Grove and Vacaville to capture the team title. Vacaville edged Elk Grove 35-30 on Feb. 4 to win the section dual team title. … One individual who stirred excitement in the crowd was Hughson 130-pounder – ranked No. 1 in the section, state and nation – who only needed 1:33 to score a 19-4 technical against Folsom’s Justin Bolton in the finals. The section title was Murphy’s third. … Two matches in the finals were decided in double overtime, as El Dorado freshman 145-pounder Jordan Williams bested Sonora’s Justin Depaoli 5-4 and Elk Grove 215-pounder Ryan Coulson bested Vacaville’s Clayton Jack. Both matches were decided by technical violations.

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To contact Dave Price, e-mail him via davidp@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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