Wrestlers strive to survive

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Bobby Benyamin had nothing to lose last Saturday. The Whitney High School freshman’s ticket to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III wrestling tournament was guaranteed no matter how he fared. Coach Dan Parker talked Benyamin into competing with the varsity at the Capital Athletic League championships at Rio Americano High. The 130-pound weight class was in need of a fourth wrestler. The CAL will send the top four finishers in each of the 14 weight classes to the Division III tournament, which will be Friday and Saturday at Natomas High. Whitney will be represented by nine wrestlers. Rocklin will send five wrestlers to the Division II tournament Friday and Saturday at Hiram Johnson High. The top six finishers in each weight class will advance to the section Masters tournament. Division III teams will not be as fortunate. Only the top four in each class earn a trip to the Masters meet. Chances are Benyamin will not go that far. He has just five varsity matches under his belt, winning three. Parker offered a promotion to Benyamin to prevent the CAL from having three wrestlers at 130 pounds in the Division III meet. That could have cost the league one of its four allocated berths in 2012. Benyamin could have flopped on the mat and settled for fourth place, but he proved to be worthy of the promotion. Rio Americano junior Ben Bernstein can attest to that after losing to the freshman. “I was nervous,” Benyamin explained, “but I did it because my coach thought I was good enough to do it." Bernstein trailed 18-4 in the third period when Benyamin put him out of his misery with a pin. Benyamin was one of six Whitney wrestlers to advance to the finals and one of three to finish second. Winning CAL titles were junior Joe Atwood (140 pounds), sophomore Jordan Powell (152) and senior Julio Ceron (215). Senior Justin Martinez (119) and junior Ian Bamsey (160) both finished second. Ceron’s league title was his third in the past three years. He won two in the Pioneer Valley League. Also advancing to the Division III tournament for Whitney will be senior Nick Jacopi (189), junior Spencer Diegert (171) and freshman Andrew Gomez (112). Benyamin’s semifinal victory validated Parker’s decision to throw the freshman against the big boys. “I told him that if he could wrestle without fear, good things would happen,” Parker said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re wrestling. The only thing that matters is the match in front of you. A guy can be from the biggest school in California or the smallest. He can be monster or a flake.” Speaking of monsters, Rocklin’s Joey Ramos turned into one at the Sierra Foothill League championships last Thursday. The senior 215-pounder won both of his matches by pin to claim the SFL title. Ramos was one of three Rocklin wrestlers to reach the finals. Senior Eddy Egan lost 8-3 to Granite Bay’s Johnny Cooley at 145 pounds. Senior heavyweight Nic Cooper was pinned by Granite Bay’s Gavin Andrews. The three seniors will be joined at the Division II tournament by junior Shane Keefe (140) and sophomore Andrew Tyson (135). First-year Thunder coach Torrean Tyus already has one wrestler who has qualified for the state championships. Sophomore Olivia Seppinni will compete in the girls tournament Feb. 25 and 26 in Lemoore. Seppinni placed third at 126 pounds at the section girls Masters meet Feb. 5 at McNair High in Stockton. The boys Masters meet will be Feb. 25 and 26 at Stockton Arena. Tyus does not expect the trip to Natomas High for the Division II tournament will be the end of the road for his wrestlers. “At least four of them will find a way through,” he said.