Ukiah triumphs at Puma Classic wrestling meet
With nearly 300 wrestlers from Northern California competing Saturday, the last major local tournament of the wrestling season came to an end with Ukiah High School placing first at the 22nd annual Puma Classic at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa.
The day began with a 7 a.m. weigh-in for the wrestlers before the 9 a.m. start of competition occurring on six mats across two gyms.
The final matches were held Saturday night on a single mat in the main gym, illuminated under a single light that added to the drama.
“This is the 22nd annual and this is my 21st. My goal when I started running this tournament was to put everything I wanted to see in a tournament in this tournament and that’s why we have the spotlight final and that’s kind of our signature,” Maria Carrillo head coach and tournament organizer Tim Bruce said.
He went on to rave about the impressive group of coaches that brought their teams to the tournament, calling it the best in Northern California.
“The tournament runs flawlessly. For 22 years we’ve learned how to streamline things and make it successful,” Bruce said.
“I’ve got a great group of alumni who come and help out every year. Alumni coaches, alumni wrestlers that are here. What makes this tournament special is it’s an extension of our family,” Bruce said.
In addition to Ukiah, area teams attending included Cardinal Newman, Analy, Montgomery, Rancho Cotate, Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, Upper Lake, Willits and Windsor, which hosted its own King of the Mat tournament a week prior.
Of the 14 weight classes at the tournament, Ukiah only won one, but the Wildcats finished second three times and had frequent third- and fifth-place finishers to give them a final winning score of 185.5.
Ukiah’s champion was Jack Bednar, who defeated Willits High Schools’ KC Brown at 222 pounds. The Wildcats’ second-place finishers were Casey Aikman (126), Taj Capri (145) and Frankie Pomilla (195). Also, Charlie Cliburn (132) placed third.
Second- through fifth-place teams were Castro Valley (161), Foothill (156), Freedom (130) and Fortuna (116).
Host Maria Carrillo finished the second highest among Redwood Empire teams in ninth place (94).
“For this caliber of tournament and 38 teams, we placed in the top 10, we did well,” Bruce said. “Right now, we’re in second place in the NBL. We’re 2-1, our only loss is to Ukiah and we beat Windsor this last week. We have to perform at the dual meet, and I hope to win those and see how we do against some guys in the postseason. The goal is to get a couple of these guys to state.”
Windsor was the third highest-placing area team at 13th (78.5).
Windsor had two champions in Jon Frederickson — who beat Tallon Chambers of Livermore at 106 pounds — and Trent Silva, who defeated Logan Ramirez of Castro Valley at 160 pounds.
Vacaville High School, the perennial heavy favorite that, according to Bruce, has placed first in the last 10 tournaments, did not compete due to an invitation to the state duals this year, a new tournament just added this year.
These local competitions come at a key time in the wrestling season as competitors benefit from high-profile tournament wins with the North Coast Section meet next month.
Results from Saturday’s tournament are online at puma-classic.com.
Many of Saturday’s wrestlers will be at the Mission San Jose Invitational in Fremont next weekend.