The 49th annual El Cajon Invitational wrestling tournament is San Diego County’s longest running tournament with a rich tradition. It has grown to become one of the premier wrestling events in Southern California.
This year’s event took place last weekend, Dec. 13-14, at San Ysidro High School to accommodate the 50-team field that showcased some of the best teams and wrestlers from not only the San Diego Section but from around the western region as well.
Forty-three teams from the section participated. Also on tap in the strong field were teams from the Southern Section, Central Coast Section, Central Section and one team each from Arizona and Washington
East County was well represented with wrestlers from Granite Hills, Valhalla, Helix, Steele Canyon, Santana, West Hills, Monte Vista and Mountain Empire high schools competing.
Granite Hills finished 15th in the team standings with 80 points to lead Grossmont Conference schools while tournament host Valhalla finished 18th with 76.5 points. Helix finished 19th with 75 points while Steele Canyon was 21st with 74 points.
Santana finished 26th with 51 points while West Hills finished 28th with 50 points; Monte Vista finished 35th with 33 points while Mountain Empire finished 41st with 22 points.
Two East County wrestlers made the championship round. Steele Canyon sophomore Logan Robinson finished second in his 106-pound weight class while Valhalla senior Matthew Jordan finished second at 120 pounds.
Robinson dropped a highly competitive match to Imperial junior Nathan Galbiso by a 10- 7 decision. The score was tied 7-7 before the Tiger wrestler scored the decisive points late in the match to remain undefeated on the season (10-0).
Robinson, seeded third, finished the two-day tournament with a 3-1 record, with all his wins coming by pins, including two first-period falls.
Steele Canyon finished the tournament with two medalists as returning state meet qualifier Ezra Cardenas finished third in his 138-pound weight class. Cardenas finished 5-1, with his lone loss to Sultana senior Ryan Spangler, ranked third in the state.
Cardenas, seeded fourth, captured a 9-3 decision from Cole Hickey from Cienega (Vail, Ariz.) to complete his tournament odyssey in the bronze medal match.
Spangler earned the lower weight MVP award with four pins and a 5-0 record.
“It was a tough tournament,” Steele Canyon head coach Mark Gerardi said. “I’m pleased with how our guys did. We didn’t bring a full team, had a couple of placers. They wrestled well.
“Logan wrestled fantastic and so did Ezra, whose only loss was to the champion.
“We’re a young team; I think we have a couple guys who are contenders to qualify for state.”
Granite Hills recorded two medalists: Jeremiah Satberry (sixth, 182 pounds) and Skyler Hillberg (seventh, 170 pounds).
Satberry won his opening four matches, including three by pin, to reach the semifinals. After dropping an 11-7 decision to Mt. Carmel’s Nick Burwell, Satberry took sixth place by a medical forfeit.
Hillberg, who had two pins in the tournament, defeated Olympian’s John Johnson by a 3-1 decision to place seventh. Mountain Empire’s Dillynn McMillan finished eighth in his 285-pound heavyweight division. He won four matches over the two days, recording three pins. His three losses came to the first-, fourth- and seventh-place medal-winners.
McMillan lost by a 4:22 pin in his final match to San Marcos’s Ricky Johnson.
Rancho Bernardo, with 12 medalists in the 14 weight classes, won the team title with 284 points, followed by runner-up Moses Lake from Washington with 231.5 points. Bakersfield Frontier (Central Section) finished third with 223.5 points while Hesperia Sultana (Southern Section) was fourth with 198.5 points.
Imperial (fifth, 191.5 points), Olympian (sixth, 143.5 points), Mt. Carmel (seventh, 142.5 points), Cienega (eighth, 121.5 points), Vista (ninth, 113.5 points) and Fallbrook (10th, 92 points) rounded out the top 10 team finishers.
Tourney host Valhalla finished the tournament with three medalists as Guadalupe Garcia finished fourth at 160 pounds and Michael Carmona finished eighth at 195 pound to join Jordan on the awards stand.