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Otay Ranch, Eastlake wrestling teams reaching for the top Phillip Brents | Thu, Jan 27 2011 11:53 PM

The Eastlake Titans and Otay Ranch wrestling teams get together in the final Mesa League dual meet on Feb. 10 to close out the 2010-11 high school season. It could have championship ramifications for either or both teams.

The Titans are the defending league dual meet champions; the Mustangs joined Eastlake with a likewise 2-0 start to the new season.

EHS coach Dean Tropp anticipated an upturn in front line talent this season and has scheduled elite tournament competition accordingly. The Titans opened up the season with an appearance at the El Dorado Holiday Classic and then ventured to Las Vegas for another holiday tournament. Over winter break, Eastlake competed in the annual regional-draw El Cajon Invitational and butted heads with top-ranked Poway in the Monte Vista Invitational.

The Titans came out of that fray to defeat the Hilltop Lancers, 49-21, in the teams’ league dual opener on Jan. 13. Eastlake topped host Bonita Vista, 57-18, the following week.

Eastlake recorded six pins in the league opener against Hilltop. “We had some wild cards in the line-up,” Tropp said. “Some of our guys we weren’t sure how they would match up came through for us.”

Sophomore 140-pounder Casey Stanko improved to 16-5 on the season with a 5-4 victory while 130-pounder Abraham Sanchez improved to 15-6, 171-pounder Gabriel Nelson improved to 11-5 and heavyweight Gabriel Casillas improved to 18-4.

Nelson finished third at the El Dorado tournament while Casillas was second and Sanchez was sixth in their weights at the Las Vegas tournament. At the ECI, Casillas was fourth while Mathias Mendillo (125) and Nelson were fifth and Esteban  Baez (135) was seventh. Sanchez finished second at the Monte Vista tournament.

“We feel our league is pretty tough this year,” Tropp said. “We’re taking one match at a time.” 

Otay Ranch, which also competed at the El Cajon Invitational and most recently at the Rim of the World tournament in Lake Arrowhead, opened the season with a 52-21 dual win at BVHS and out-pointed Mater Dei Catholic, 61-16, on Jan. 20.

The Mustangs led all South County teams with a meteoric 10th place finish at the ECI and placed seventh with two weight class champions at the Rim of the World tournament.

Senior 112-pounder Eddie Estevez led all South County wrestlers with a first-place finish at the ECI and also won his weight class at the Lake Arrowhead tournament. A state qualifier as a sophomore, he improved to 14-0 with a pin in the dual meet at BVHS.

Four mat men key this year’s Otay Ranch squad, according to third-year head coach Troy Vierra. Besides Estevez, they include sophomore 103-pounder Tommy Espinoza, senior 152/160-pounder Albert Lopez and senior heavyweight Jon Henkel.

Espinoza finished second at the prestigious ECI tournament while Henkel won his weight class at the Rim of the World tourney. Lopez was second at the Lake Arrowhead tourney.

All four are expected to challenge for top place-finishes at both the upcoming Metro Conference finals (Feb. 12 at Olympian) and San Diego Section Division I finals (Feb. 19 at Eastlake). A shot at possible state qualifying berths awaits  at the San Diego Masters tournament.

Vierra, who previously built successful teams at Chula Vista and Eastlake, said it takes about three years to kick-start a program to the next level. He feels his team is now ready to take on the Mesa League’s heavy-hitters.

“I’m not going to say that we will win it but I think we’re finally in a position to challenge for the title,” Vierra said.

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