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El Cajon Invitational wrestling tournament returning to its roots Phillip Brents | Fri, Dec 16 2011 11:41 AM

What always seems to evoke the holiday spirit more than anything else during the wrestling season is the highly anticipated El Cajon Invitational, the granddaddy of all regular season San Diego Section tournaments. To place in the ECI is to place one’s name among the section’s elite grapplers.

That it was held the week prior to the Christmas holiday made it somehow even more special. It seemed to sharply define the first half of the season from the second.

In recent years, however, the tournament had become a post-Christmas event. The result was that fewer local teams participated.

This year, under new leadership at Valhalla High School, the tournament returns to its roots, with a decided South Bay twist. The 2011 ECI will take place this Friday and Saturday at Otay Ranch High School.

“It is our goal to put on a classy well-run tournament that is both affordable and competitive,” new VHS coach Steve Bulette said. “This year’s field of teams is slightly larger than last season with our own section once again being represented with the tournament being hosted on its original dates. We have commitments from several out-of-section programs to attend next year as more teams adjust their schedules to the new dates. We look forward to a great tournament this weekend.”

Wrestling starts at 10 a.m.  both days.

Metro Conference entrants include Bonita Vista, Chula Vista, Eastlake, Hilltop, Mater Dei Catholic and Otay Ranch.

The Grossmont Conference is well represented. Teams include El Cajon Valley, El Capitan, Granite Hills, Grossmont, Helix, Mt. Miguel, Monte Vista, Steele Canyon and Valhalla.

Out-of-section entrants include Cibola (Ariz.) and Thousand Oaks.

Otay Ranch is led by returning state medalist Tommy Espinoza, who finished seventh among 103-pounders last season in California. He enters this season ranked 10th among all juniors in the state and fifth overall at 106 pounds.

Marauder Invitational
Hilltop finished sixth — four points behind San Pasqual — at last Saturday’s Marauder Invitational at Mira Mesa High School. The Lancers finished with six medalists: Cruz Jaime (second, 113 pounds), Jordan Griffin (third, 120), Wyatt Brenner (seventh, 132), Albert Navarro (third, 145), Liam Beyerle (third, 160) and Claudio Narez-Ortiz (second, 285).

Jaime dropped a 4-0 finals decision to Mt. Carmel’s Ben Kim while Narez-Ortiz advanced to the championship round on the strength of three pins before losing by fall to Escondido’s James Cannon.

Chapparal, buoyed by six weight class champions, captured the team title with 276 points — well ahead of runner-up Mt. Carmel (188 points), third place Escondido (170 points), fourth place Mira Mesa (167.5 points) and fifth place San Pasqual (133.5 points).

La Costa Canyon Classic
Last Saturday’s expanded Jimmy Hamada Memorial super tournament at La Costa Canyon High School attracted four South County teams. San Ysidro finished 17th in the field of 40-plus teams, followed by Chula Vista (21st), Eastlake (29th) and Mater Dei Catholic (32nd).

San Ysidro and Chula Vista each finished with two place-finishers, including one finalist for each team.

Chula Vista’s Bogart Marquez placed second in his 152-pound division while San Ysidro’s Jonathan Bastien finished runner-up at 285 pounds.

Bastien dropped a 4-2 finals match to Servite’s Brendon Johnson while Marquez came up on the short end of an 11-5 decision against Green Valley’s Donovan Peek.

Also earning medals (top eight finishers) were Chula Vista’s Damian Alcala (fifth, 126) and San Ysidro’s Miguel Flores (seventh, 113). 

Green Valley, with four individual champions and eight finalists, topped Servite for the team title. La Costa Canyon was the top San Diego Section team with a third place finish. Vista was fifth, while Ramona was sixth and San Marcos was seventh.

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