Balers’ Loredo, Melo have state aspirations

San Benito's J.J. Melo wrestles with Alisal during their Jan. 27 match.

Without the services of a couple of starters, the San Benito High wrestling team dropped a 41-27 decision to Alisal on Tuesday in a Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division contest.
Out of the 14 contested matches, the Haybalers won just five of them, including Christian Aguilar in the 108-pound class, Eric Loredo at 128, Juan Gutierrez at 134, Miguel Pulga at 222 and J.J. Melo at heavyweight.
The Balers needed to be at full strength against a tough Alisal squad; however, the flu bug has hit the team hard lately, coach Brian DeCarli said. Even so, San Benito had several standout individual performances.
Aguilar, Loredo, and Melo were flat-out dominant in their respective matches, as they each recorded first-period pins. Pulga delivered a pin with two seconds left in his match, and Gutierrez won a 5-1 decision in his dual.
Melo channeled his full beast mode, taking his opponent to the mat almost immediately before scoring a pin just 24 seconds into the match. It was an impressive display of power, albeit against an overmatched opponent.
Melo has high hopes for a top-three finish in the Central Coast Section Championships, which would earn him a berth to the CIF State Meet. Loredo was equally impressive in recording a pin with 1:06 left in the first period, displaying an array of skills that has him currently ranked No. 2 in his weight class in the CCS.
To see how far Loredo has come, one only has to look back to where it all began. The first two years of Loredo’s wrestling career didn’t go too well.
“I got my butt kicked all the time,” he said. “In the sixth grade, I was 5-foot and 75 pounds. Maybe.”
Six years later, Loredo has grown into one of the top grapplers in his weight class. Ranked second in his division, Loredo sported a record of 21-4 after Tuesday’s victory.
After finishing in fifth place in the CCS Championships last year, all Loredo could think about was coming back to earn a top-three finish and earn a berth to the CIF State Meet.
“My mentality is to make it to state and finish off the year strong,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about since last summer.”
Making Loredo’s quest to make state all the more paramount is the fact that this is his final season of competitive, organized wrestling. Loredo recently decided to attend Fresno State University to major in its nursing program, and Fresno State doesn’t have a wrestling team.
In late February, Loredo will have either realized a dream by making it to the state meet in Bakersfield, or be devastated having fallen short of his goal. One thing is for certain: Loredo isn’t going to leave anything to chance.
A voracious competitor with a work ethic to match, Loredo treated the off-season with the sole purpose of getting bigger, stronger and faster. He did just that while working with Hunter Cuneo at Strength Beyond Strength in Tres Pinos.
“Getting stronger has helped me a lot,” he said. “I feel like I can finish matches a lot faster than last year.”
Loredo also attended to wrestling camps to hone his technical skills. One was a week-long camp at Menlo College in Atherton, and the other was at Gilroy High, where Loredo and hundreds of other wrestlers got to learn under the tutelage of former NCAA champions Chris Perry and Mark Perry.
“It’s really inspiring to see some of the more advanced wrestlers,” Loredo said. “Just being able to see them up close is pretty amazing.”
Loredo feels he’s a more refined wrestler from a year ago, and he’s able to succeed on the majority of his shots to take down opponents. Loredo has had a solid season, placing in all of the tournaments he’s entered.
He won the Pirate Invitational in late December, but his most impressive showing was probably a runner-up finish in the Westside Tournament in Firebaugh on Jan. 17.
Despite getting whipped in the finals against a state-ranked wrestler, Loredo had a nice showing in beating some top section placers along the way.
“I got my butt kicked in the finals, and that humbles you,” he said. “It’s good, though, because you can learn from matches like that. I know I need to improve my bottom and standing in terms of finishing and keeping good defense throughout the match.”
Now in the twilight of his wrestling career, Loredo hopes his vision of making it to state becomes a reality.
“It’s something I think about all the time,” he said. “I’ve got to make it.”

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