No matter what happens for the rest of his athletic career, Josaiah Escalante-Aranda has cemented his place in Hollister High wrestling history.
The junior won the 285 pound (heavyweight) title in the Central Coast Section Masters Finals Feb. 18 at Watsonville High, becoming the first Haybaler to win a section championship in 13 years. One has to go all the way back to 2010 to find the last time Hollister High had a CCS champion, when Adolpho Davila won a title at 119 pounds.
Escalante-Aranda competes in the CIF State Championships Feb. 23-25 at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield. He drew No. 15 seed Frank Bainivallu, the third-place finisher from the Sac-Joaquin Section, for his opening-round match in the double-elimination tournament.
The top three from each weight class from the Masters Finals earned state berths. Hollister’s Art Parra (120) and Aaron Rodriguez (126) both suffered losses via pinfall in their respective third-place matches to finish fourth.
After his arm was raised in victory in the Masters Final, signifying Escalante-Aranda’s 7-4 decision win over Silver Creek’s Hung Vo, he shared a joyous embrace with Hollister coach Steven Salcedo, lifting Salcedo high off the ground with a bear hug.
“I just want to thank my coaches and family members who keep pushing me,” Escalante-Aranda said. “Especially my grandpa, all my coaches, I appreciate all of them for helping me get this far.”
As someone who is in just his second year of organized wrestling, Escalante-Aranda wasn’t expected to win a CCS title this season. However, Salcedo said the heavyweight took to instruction well, has a passion for the sport and worked hard to better himself.
Although Escalante-Aranda didn’t rack up great results early in the season, he kept on improving with time in the wrestling room and match experience.
“It was just a lot of practice and knowing where to put my weight, knowing how to use my weight,” he said. “Just do all the simple stuff and what I’ve been told to do.”
Escalante-Aranda’s most riveting match came in the semifinals, when he beat Westmont’s Angel Blanco 3-2 in the ultimate tiebreaker. Blanco was the pre-tournament favorite, having won the Southern Regional. However, Escalante-Aranda dug deep and delivered his best performance when it mattered most.
The final had less drama as Escalante-Aranda avenged a loss to Vo in the CCS Southern Regional semifinals, where he was pinned in a quick 57 seconds. But the rematch proved to be far different, as Escalante-Aranda scored a takedown just 15 seconds into the match off a single leg, then recorded another takedown to take a 4-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Vo scored on a two-point reversal to cut his deficit in half, then scored on an escape to get to within 4-3 early in the second period. However, Escalante-Aranda controlled things the rest of the way, scoring on an escape himself and another two-point takedown to seal the outcome.
Despite the loss to Vo in the Regionals, Escalante-Aranda gained added confidence after that as he won two matches, including the third-place contest over Gilroy’s Jose Guerrero. Escalante-Aranda grew up playing baseball and football, but his grandpa encouraged him to take up wrestling a couple of years ago.
“I wasn’t expecting to be a wrestler,” he said. “I didn’t know what it really was. Never watched it before. I didn’t have any expectations when I first started. Just give it my all and keep pushing.”
Even though Escalante-Aranda didn’t know what to expect, he did envision himself being on a CCS podium one day.
“Once I got into it, I watched videos of other wrestlers winning CCS and told myself I wanted to do that,” he said. “I always dreamed of being a CCS champ.”