Sepeda And Three Teammates,
Inderkum Wrestler Advance To Masters
BY TREVOR HORN
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz
Fighting for his wrestling life, Rafael Pantoja needed just one more move. And the senior from Natomas High School did just that.
With 32.4 seconds left in the consolation bracket elimination match against Herman Thomas of El Camino, Pantoja slipped out of Thomas’ grasp and earned two reversal points to take a 5-4 victory and qualify for the Sac Joaquin Section Masters tournament next weekend in Stockton.
Patoja along with fellow Natomas High senior wrestlers Alex Gonzalez (145 pounds), Jordan Sepeda (220) and Joey Ames (285) all qualified after wrestling at the Division III championships on Saturday.
“Coach Martinez came over to me after the second period and told me ‘you’re done. Your high school career is over if you don’t do something now,’” Pantoja said. “I started to get jittery. But I know I can get out of anything, then I got the reversal.”
For Martinez, the four wrestler’s bond is the strongest he has ever seen.
“You can see it in the other’s eyes,” Martinez said. “When Raf was down, you could see Jordan and Joey by the mat. You could see it in their faces, they felt it, too. For those four kids, it’s pretty cool for all of them.”
Pantoja finished in third place with a 9-7 decision over Emilio Flores of Woodland.
Jordan Sepeda, the 220-pound wrestler from Natomas High, captured his first D-III title with a first period pin over Travis McKnight in the finals. Sepeda previously won four league titles and a section title as a sophomore.
“I feels good,” Sepeda said. “I wish I would have gotten it at our house last year, but God as a different destiny for me. But it feels good to knock it off my list after four years. Now I have two more to goals to get.”
Gonzalez finished in third place after his opponent forfeited the match due to injury.
Joey Ames finished in second place at 285 pounds for Natomas High.
The Nighthawks finished in 8th place with 98 points and Inderkum finishes in 15th with 35 team points.
Ruben Escalante from Inderkum High School finished in second place Saturday after losing the title match 16-4 to Ernie Armas of El Camino. This will be the senior’s second consecutive trip to Masters after finishing sixth at Master’s last season.