Mater Dei Catholic’s Sean O’Rourke turned in a solid sophomore season in 2011-12 that included a top 12 finish at the San Diego Masters, third-place finish at the Division IV finals and a Metro Conference weight class championship.
He didn’t stop there. During the off-season, he placed fifth at the USA Wrestling Cadet state tournament, fourth at the USAW western regional championships in Greco-Roman and competed at the USAW nationals in Fargo, N.D.
Playing off that hard work and dedication to the sport, he entered the 2012-13 season as the first Mater Dei Catholic wrestler to garner a state ranking (honorable mention honors).
So far during his junior year he’s done everything to prove that he indeed is the proverbial “real deal.”
O’Rourke joined four other Metro Conference wrestlers in the finals of last weekend’s 42nd annual El Cajon Invitational, long considered the San Diego region’s most prestigious regular season event. He finished second in his 126-pound weight class following a narrow 3-2 loss to Northview’s John Rivera in the 40-team tournament held Dec. 21-22 at Otay Ranch High School.
“I want to represent the entire South Bay, not just my school, when I’m out there on the mat,” O’Rourke said. “This (ECI place-finish) and last week at La Costa Canyon really has my confidence up there.”
O’Rourke posted a strong runner-up finish at the preceding 37-team La Costa Canyon Jimmy Hamada Classic, dropping an 8-3 decision to Valley Center’s Manny Boyle, the top-ranked wrestler in the section in the weight class.
The MDC grappler opened the season with a first-place medal at the Mar Vista Battle by the Beach tournament.
“My goals this season are to be a state qualifier and CIF champion,” O’Rourke said matter-of-factly. “I feel I’m on track so far.”
The Crusader mat man joined Otay Ranch’s Tommy Espinoza (120), Castle Park’s Daniel Hernandez (195) and Olympian’s Bryan Sanchez (106) and Jeremiah Deinla (138) in this year’s ECI championship round. The five South County grapplers made a collective statement for the Metro Conference, though none walked off the mat with first-place trophy.
Sanchez, a sophomore, is the son for former state champion Bryan Sanchez of Calexico and has definite ideas of following in his father’s footsteps. Motivation is aplenty: The younger Sanchez has dedicated his season to the memory of his late grandfather Luis.
“He couldn’t be here to see me wrestle but I’m wrestling for his memory,” said the OHS grappler, who came up just short of Northview’s Richard Casillas by an 8-6 decision.
Sanchez is now 11-2 this season.
Eagles teammate Jeremiah Deinla, who previously recorded a first-place finish at the Mira Mesa Marauder tournament, faced off the ECI with three pins and a 6-0 shutout decision but was no match for Northview’s Tony Arellano in closing the tourney with a loss by technical fall.
Still, the Olympian wrestler remains resolute in matching his season goals. “I will win CIF and I will win Metro,” said Deinla, who is now 14-3.
Hernandez popped up on the section’s radar screen last season but ended the 2011-12 mat campaign with a disappointing sixth-place finish at the Division III finals. The radar ping appears stronger this season after recording a 4-1 showing at the ECI. Hernandez, who opened the tournament with two pins, was seeded sixth.
The CP mat man dropped a 10-3 decision to University City’s Tyler Roman, last season’s Division III champion.
Espinoza (7-1) was the most decorated of the five Metro ECI finalists after winning a seventh-place state medal two years ago as a sophomore. He was dominant in reach the 120-pound title match with a 2:35 pin, pair of technical falls (20-4 and 18-3) and a 17-8 major decision by gave up an early takedown to Northview’s Eric Ochoa en route to a 9-4 setback.
It was Ochoa’s decisive victory against Espinoza that likely earned the Northview grappler the tournament’s outstanding lower weight award.
“I think he (Espinoza) learned today that he’s really a 113-pounder,” Otay Ranch coach Gabe Ruz said tersely.
Northview, 14th at last season’s state finals, dominated this year’s ECI with 10 finalists, eight individual champions and 14 trophy-winners.
East County spotlight
East County mat programs have a reason to be quite optimistic. The Steele Canyon Cougars finished in third place — 20 points behind Escondido — with six individual trophy winners. The Granite Hills Eagles placed ninth in the 40-team tournament with four medalists.
El Capitan (19th) and West Hills (20th) each had three wrestlers climb the award stand while Valhalla (29th) had one trophy winner and El Cajon Valley (30th) and Grossmont (35th) each had two medalists.
The top six teams received trophies. Medals were awarded to the top eight place-finishers in each of 14 weight classes.
There was a noticeable upgrade in the tournament after its return last year to its traditional pre-Christmas slot.
"The addition or return of teams like Mt. Si (Washington), Beckman (Souhern Section) and Northview elevated the level of the tournament," said Valhalla coach Steve Bulette. "We hope to add eight to 10 more teams next year. Our goal is to provide a competitive and well-run tournament and one that is very spectator friendly."
Third-place trophy winners included West Hills’ Mavrick Mooneyham (113 pounds) and Johnny Lancaster (126), Granite Hills’ Sage Espinoza (160) and Steele Canyon’s Colin Forman (182) and Logan Stately (220).
Fourth-place trophy winners included El Capitan’s Emilio Rouse (106), Steele Canyon’s Brett Maynard (120) and El Cajon Valley’s Leon Shlemoon (152).
Impressively, 10 East County wrestlers advanced to the tourney semifinals: Rouse, Mooneyham, Lancaster, Shlemoon, Espinoza, Forman and Stately along with Grossmont’s Ricardo Villegas (170), Valhalla’s Utah Mann (195) and West Hills’ Angel Sandoval.
Villegas and Mann both placed fifth while Sandoval finished sixth in their respective weights.
Steele Canyon’s place-winners also included Ryan Maynard (fifth, 126), Christian Perez (seventh, 106) and Kelvin Schneemann (eighth, 145).
Granite Hills’ medalists also included and Francisco Saavedra (fifth, 285), Brendan Briggs (seventh, 152) and Leo Valencia (eighth, 180).
Also picking up awards were Grossmont’s Justin Atkins (sixth, 138), ECV’s Peshwar Hussein (seventh, 182) and El Capitan’s Kevin Hoyt (seventh, 285) and Justin Duggie (eighth, 113).
42nd annual El Cajon Invitational
Dec. 21-22 at Otay Ranch High School
106: Richard Casillas (Northview) decisioned Bryan Sanchez (Olympian) 8-6
113: Vincent Parra (Northview) decisioned Kevin Teran (Calexico) 1-0
120: Eric Ochoa (Northview) decisioned Tommy Espinoza (Otay Ranch) 9-4
126: John Rivera (Northview) decisioned Sean O'Rourke (Mater Dei Catholic) 3-2
132: Sam Acosta (Del Norte) decisioned Andres Estrada (Northview) 8-1
138: Tony Arellano (Northview) tech fall Jeremiah Deinla (Olympian) 4:00
145: Daniel Valles (Northview) major decisioned Alex Gallo (Escondido) 9-0
152: Ricky Padilla (Northview) major decisioned Cameron Chavez (Cathedral Catholic) 14-1
160: Marcus Cerda (Oceanside) decisioned Anthony Manuche (Westview) 9-7
170: Anthony Anderson (Beckman) decisioned Steven Lopez (Northview) 4-3
182: Anthony Martinez (Northview) decisioned Timothy Corrie (Mt. Si) 6-5
195: Tyler Roman (University City) decisioned Daniel Hernandez (Castle Park) 10-3
220: Carlos Urquijo (San Luis) decisioned Jacob Krummal (Orange Glen) 4-0
285: James Cannon (Escondido) pinned Mario Williams (Orange Glen) 1:16
Third place matches
106: Kenny Caldera (Imperial) pinned Emilio Rouse (El Capitan) 3:14
113: Mavrick Mooneyham (West Hills) decisioned Ty Mata (Escondido) 5-2
120: Miguel Flores (San Ysidro) pinned Brett Maynard (Steele Canyon) 2:46
126: Johnny Lancaster (West Hills) decisioned Elvin Obellos (Olympian) 7-0
132: Alberto Garcia II (Orange Glen) pinned Sergio Ramirez (San Ysidro) 1:58
138: Casey Stanko (Eastlake) decisioned Jordan Santos (Westview) 7-2
145: Roberto Ala Torre (San Ysidro) decisioned Parker Sullivan (Torrey Pines) 12-7
152: Keegan Bell (Pt. Loma) pinned Leon Shlemoon (El Cajon Valley) 2:23
160: Sage Espinoza (Granite Hills) decisioned Jovany Reynoso (Northview) 5-0
170: Mitchell January (Cathedral Catholic) major decisioned Shawn Cooker (Otay Ranch) 15-6
182: Colin Forman (Steele Canyon) pinned Erick Gomez (La Jolla) 3:41
195: Anthony Orozco (Northview) decisioned Adam Waller (Escondido) 7-4
220: Logan Statley (Steele Canyon) pinned Adam Cano (Kofa, Ariz.) 0:48
285: Derreck Cooper (San Pasqual) defeated Dion Wilson (Palo Verde) by disqualification
Fifth place matches
106: Ariel Alatorre (Escondido) pinned Ryan Richey (Westview) 3:14
113: Ryan Thurman (Del Norte) defeated Chase Harris (Pt. Loma) by default
120: Andrew Villanueva (Escondido) defeated Davan Dutra-Smith (Westview) by forfeit
126: Ryan Maynard (Steele Canyon) defeated Jacob Tropp (Eastlake) by forfeit
132: Steven Andrews (La Jolla) decisoned Carrigan Henkel (Westview) 6-2
138: Alex Crawford (San Pasqual) pinned Justin Atkins (Grossmont) 2:41
145: Kenneth Moore (Hoover) major decisioned Bryan Zuniga (San Luis)
152: Adrian Martinez (Escondido) pinned Andy Garcia (Bonita Vista)
160: Alan Breland (Bonita Vista) decisioned Jesus Polino (Kofa, Ariz.) 13-8
170: Ricardo Villegas (Grossmont) decisioned Bailey Dugdale (Pt. Loma) 9-3
180: Jibreel Keddo (Otay Ranch) pinned Casey Lasho (San Pasqual) 1:44
195: Utah Mann (Valhalla) major decisioned Angel Sandoval (West Hills) 10-2
220: Nate Whited (Mt. Si) decisioned Nathan Bernal (Northview) 6-2
285: Francisco Saavedra (Granite Hills) decisioned Josh Alonzo (Northview) 3-2
Seventh place matches
106: Christian Perez (Steele Canyon) decisioned Frankie Borboa (Palo Verde) 7-0
113: Vince Nunez (Kofa, Ariz.) decisioned Justin Duggie (El Capitan)
120: Dallas Kinkenborg (Beckman) decisioned Dante Preciado (Olympian) 5-2
126: Tomas Gonzalez (Orange Glen) pinned Juan Colacion (San Luis) 3:24
132: Elmer Gutierrez (Oceanside) decisioned Carlos Flores (Eastlake) 4-0
138: Adrian Hernandez-Moral (Otay Ranch) pinned Nick Egas (San Luis) 4:43
145: Jonathan Elias (Calexico) decisioned Kelvin Schneemann (Steele Canyon) 6-0
152: Brendan Briggs (Granite Hills) decisioned Mario Yorba (San Ysidro) 7-5
160: Moises Garcia (Hoover) pinned Christian Polak (St. Augustine) 2:33
170: Rudolfo Campos (Calexico) pinned William Ramirez (Bonita Vista) 3:50
180: Peshwar Hussein (El Cajon Valley) defeated Leo Valencia (Granite Hills) by forfeit
195: Mitch Rorem (Mt. Si) decisioned Drew Garcia (Southwest) 4-3
220: Jovanny Sanchez (Pt. Loma) pinned Francisco Solis (Otay Ranch) 2:18
285: Kevin Hoyt (El Capitan) pinned Robert Stretch (Castle Park) 2:30