Del Oro looks to reclaim title

Golden Eagles host defending SFL champion Granite Bay tonight with SFL banner on the line
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Raising a Sierra Foothill League banner has been somewhat of a tradition at Del Oro High. The Golden Eagles wrestling team has won it an outstanding 13 times since 1995 and were on a streak of five until they got upended last season by Granite Bay. “It’s really important not just to us as a team but also as our reputation to being the best in the league,” said junior Tanner Woods, who wrestles at 220 pounds. “I just think if we go out and wrestle like we think we can then we can take it back.” Del Oro gets it shot at redemption at 7 p.m. tonight when the Grizzlies come to town for a dual match that in all likelihood will determine the SFL championship despite both teams having one match remaining. The two teams have developed a bit of a rivalry recently with Del Oro narrowly taking home the title in 2010 over Granite Bay. They have also trained together in the lead up to the California Interscholastic Federation Masters tournament and some of the opposing wrestlers have developed a friendship. While both talked highly of each other all that camaraderie goes to the wayside when they meet on the mat. “They’ve always been very competitive and we’ve always wanted to be that competitive and we’re finally getting there, getting a little recognition to roll with them,” Granite Bay coach Robert Cooley said. “We don’t want (our wrestlers) to get too excited and put too much pressure on anybody so we’ll do what we do every day and that’s practice to wrestle the next day and then practice to wrestle again.” This dual will be unlike any either team has been in this season. Both teams breezed through the first three matches of the season and came out unscathed at 3-0. This time, the match could go either way and may come down to the wire. “It’s going to be a tight match,” Del Oro co-coach Clint Madden said. “It could be seven wins to seven wins. If that’s the case then we need to try to score points in the individual matches and keep Granite Bay from scoring big points in their wins. That’s what it comes down to, pin and not be pinned.” Confidence won’t be an issue for Del Oro’s top wrestler, Austin Branum. The junior won his third title at the Tim Brown Memorial over the weekend and did so in grand fashion. Branum met returning state champ Jake Elliott from Oakmont in a 152-pound bout and came out the winner, 4-3. All 14 bouts could come down to which coach plays the best game of chess. Branum hasn’t competed at 152 in any of the other three dual matches. He has wrestled anywhere from 145 to 160. Del Oro has also moved wrestlers up from junior varsity at will in a few weight classes, leaving any and all options on the table. Granite Bay is prepared to do the same. “We’ve got strategies going on that we’ve put on paper backwards and forwards, inserted a couple guys here and there and I’m sure they’ve done the same thing,” Cooley said. Wrestling is an individual sport but it doesn’t mean that these wrestlers don’t care about hoisting another banner. “It makes the season more fun coming out and being league champions,” Branum said. “It makes you want to come back next year and wrestle harder.”