Eagles maintaining flight

Despite losing Stafford, others, Del Oro aiming for sixth straight SFL crown and more
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LOOMIS — Just when coaches around the Sierra Foothill League think Del Oro High’s wrestling talent pool is running dry, the Golden Eagles show up on the mat and prove them all wrong. Del Oro looked vulnerable early on last season before rallying to their fifth straight SFL title. The Eagles lost several key pieces from that squad, but coaches Dave Sanchez and Clint Madden like what they see from their young team early on this season. Junior Austin Branum leads a handful of returning varsity wrestlers. He placed third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet last season and is aiming at top three in the state this year. “We’ve got a lot of guys who work their butts off and are proving themselves,” Branum said. “We don’t have a lot of stars, but we have some tough kids.” Branum wrestles in the heart of the lineup, where the Eagles are the toughest. He is in the 145-pound division after wrestling at 130 last season. His practice partner is 152-pound senior Kevin Burrage, who also took third at Masters last season and is just back after having surgery on his left knee. Senior Foster Fretland mans the 160 spot after making it to state at 145 last season. He and Branum honed their skills wrestling against each other throughout the summer. “We definitely push each other,” Fretland said of the three top returners. “We know each other really well and we expose each other’s flaws, so that helps us get better.” The proximity in weight initially caused some tension among the Del Oro standouts, but each has found his niche. “We’ve always had a hard time with people close to each other in weight,” Branum said. “But we worked it out and we all decided to stay where we’re at and we’re doing well now.” Just above Fretland at 171 is Jake Uhler, who has developed into one of the top competitors on the team. He leads the Eagles in wins (15) and pins (9) this season. Kevin Love, a standout on the Del Oro football team’s offensive line last fall, wrestles at 189 while fellow football player Dustin Mollard is coming along nicely at 215. Emilio Campos is wrestling in the heavyweight division for the Eagles. In the light weights, sophomores Johnny Zieour (119) and Brendan Montoya (125) have been bright spots. Zieour scored a key pin in Del Oro’s SFL-opening win over Woodcreek on Wednesday. Montoya came up with several big wins in dual meets last season and is looking sharp again. Danny Jacoshank (130) took second place at the SFL Championships last season. Patrick Neu (135) is coming off an outstanding junior varsity season while Neil Powell (140) is also a solid product of the JV program. Youngsters Isaac Blackburn 103) and Connor Van Liew (112) are holding their own in their first varsity seasons. The Eagles are not anticipating an easy SFL title defense. Granite Bay and Nevada Union figure to give Del Oro major challenges in the coming weeks. Fretland said the Eagles aren’t stressing about their quest for another SFL banner. “We don’t really feel pressure, but we expect it of ourselves,” Fretland said of the league title. “We know there are some good teams in the league, but as a team we’ve come together and we’re only getting better.”