Dinuba wrestling builds program back up

Emperors drop lone home dual matchup of season, but are led by two strong postseason contenders

Dinuba High senior Nicholas Cannen Quintana works a headlock on Hanford High’s Jordan Urias on his way to a second period pin at 126 pounds during the Emperors’ 66-18 dual meet loss on Jan. 17 in Dinuba. Senior Quintana, ranked 15th in the state, improved his season record to 19-3. (Jon Earnest)
Dinuba High senior Nicholas Cannen Quintana works a headlock on Hanford High’s Jordan Urias on his way to a second period pin at 126 pounds during the Emperors’ 66-18 dual meet loss on Jan. 17 in Dinuba. Senior Quintana, ranked 15th in the state, improved his season record to 19-3. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published January 18, 2024  • 
11:00 am

DINUBA – Dinuba High’s final home wrestling appearance of the season was Senior Night against a stacked Hanford High opponent, and the Emperors’ two most experienced veterans collected a majority of the team’s points at Dinuba High gym.

Senior Nicholas Cannen Quintana posted a dominating second period pin at 126 pounds while Ethan Garza collected a forfeit win at 113 pounds, combining with Andrew Lopez’s pin at 165 to score all the team’s points in a 66-18 setback. West Yosemite League rival Hanford collected seven pins and a pair of forfeit victories.

Emperors head coach Ralph Cisneros said the team is still rebuilding the program back up after numbers of young wrestlers fell off coming out of COVID.

“Our youth (club) is Team Dynamite, and we have about 30 strong (wrestlers) right now,” he said. “We want to get our numbers up and build (the program) back up.”

This year’s varsity squad graduated eight seniors from last season, and section placewinner and potential state heavyweight qualifier Julian Ramirez decided to forego wrestling his senior season to concentrate on track and field where he is a state-ranked weightman.

Quintana and Garza are the team’s main anchors this season, with both capturing weight class titles during the Dinuba Invitational on Dec. 30. Against Hanford, Quintana improved to 19-3 on the season by methodically wearing down Jordan Urias and winning by fall at 3 minutes, 19 seconds.

“He’s having a strong season for us,” Cisneros said. “He was a little injured at the beginning of the season but right now he looks good.” Garza’s forfeit win raised his season record to 14-4, and he’s wrestled at both 106 and 113 pounds.

Dinuba’s other win against Hanford came when Lopez worked his way to a lead against Rodrigo Valdovinos, and a strong offensive surge early in the second period resulted in a pin at 2:57. In the 138-pound match, Evaristo Ruiz battled Devin Marquez for the full six minutes but ultimately lost by a 9-5 decision.

There were just three varsity girls matches contested on Jan. 17, with Hanford winning two by pin and Dinuba’s Destiny Morales winning by majority decision.

Cisneros said the boys team has one more tournament this season; the Mid Cals Invitational at Gilroy High on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 19-20. It’s another opportunity for Quintana and Garza to gain some additional quality matches before the postseason, which will begin with the WYL Championships tournament on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Tulare Western High School.

The Section Divisionals meet is scheduled for Feb. 9-10, and the Section Masters Meet for girls and boys takes place Feb. 16-17 at Selland Arena in Fresno. The CIF State Meet will take place Feb. 22-24 at its traditional home in Bakersfield.

Jon Earnest
Reporter