Changing of guard at Del Oro

Branum gears up for last run, Kainrath hopeful
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS – The Del Oro High wrestling team knows something about consistency. Since 2002 it has had a returning state qualifier all but one year. In that time, someone has come back to carry on the tradition that has become synonymous with the Golden Eagles. This season is no different. Senior Austin Branum is on his way out after one last hoorah at the CIF State wrestling tournament, which starts today and wraps up Saturday in Bakersfield, and sophomore Dylan Kainrath is ready to take over the mantle. “Just seeing how Austin’s been doing in state it kind of makes me feel like that’s how I’m going to do, somewhat close to that,” said Kainraith, who wrestles at 170 pounds. “Austin’s doing pretty good, he got a scholarship (offer) to Cal Poly, placed fifth in the state as a junior. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing.” Thanks to two favorable brackets both wrestlers have a chance to at least place in the tournament. Branum is the favorite to place after his fifth-place finish in last year’s tournament in the 140-pound weight class. But at 152 pounds he sits in the deepest class in the state. Branum, who finished third in the Sac-Joaquin Section, avoided a rematch with Oakmont’s Jake Elliott (No. 4 in the state) and Granite Bay’s Adam Wagner (ninth). He does have a potential rematch against No. 1-ranked Isaiah Martinez, who beat Branum 23-8 earlier this season, but that wouldn’t come until the semifinals. “I have a pretty good spot in the bracket to do well so I’m going to use it,” Branum said. Kainrath is happy to be at the tournament so early in his career but could join an elite group of Del Oro sophomores who have placed at state. Micah Ferguson, who is the last Eagle to win a state title (2004), placed third in 2002. “When you get there, every wrestler you wrestle is extremely tough,” Del Oro co-coach Clint Madden said. “Having been there before gives you an air of confidence. For Dylan getting in there as a sophomore, he’s tough in that weight class. He can place this year.” It may be a changing of the guard at Del Oro but Branum looks to add to his legacy. He hopes to join Ferguson and B.J. Mitchell (2002) as the only Eagles to win a state title. “It would mean a lot, just kind of satisfy me for how much hard work I’ve put in,” Branum said. “Just kind of make it all worth it. This is the No. 1 goal I’ve been working toward.”