Frustration, elation for wrestlers

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Drew Suchomel’s season ended with his right shoulder wrapped in tape and a bandage. Gabby Eslinger finished on a podium with a California Interscholastic Federation medal in her hand. Eslinger made it to the girls state championships. Suchomel likely would have advanced to the boys tournament, which begins Friday in Bakersfield, but his achy shoulder did not cooperate. Wrestling season has ended at Lincoln High School with equal amounts of elation and frustration. Suchomel made it through two matches at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet last Friday at Stockton Arena. He won the first and lost the second, which was interrupted by his shoulder. A 9-6 loss to Western Ranch’s Donnell Sims did not eliminate Suchomel from contention. Suchomel was standing in the training room when the decision was made that he would not continue. Coach Mike Maul did not have to talk Suchomel into surrendering. It was apparent the junior was finished. “There was this unspoken understanding,” Maul said. “The writing was on the wall. We weren’t going to attempt something that would put him in jeopardy. Drew’s pain was telling him that.” Sims was giving Suchomel all he could handle, or least as much as a one-armed wrestler could take. “He couldn’t post on that arm. He couldn’t defend or attack,” Maul explained. “I think he was the superior wrestler, all things being equal. He could have been right in the mix. It’s frustrating.” Suchomel’s injury was the latest for the Zebras in a season that included a fair share of anguish. Lincoln overcame that to end Placer’s three-year run as the Pioneer Valley League champion. The Zebras then finished second in the section Division III dual championships Feb. 5. “Some of the kids didn’t go as far as we hoped,” Maul said, “but they would not trade what they accomplished as a team for an individual triumph. It hurts because the kids deserved more.” Had Suchomel been a senior, he might have continued in his bid to reach the state meet for the first time. With another season to go with the Zebras, the risk last Friday outweighed the reward. “We didn’t want to take an injury that could be rehabilitated to make an injury that would need surgery.” Maul said. “He’s got football season and a fantastic wrestling season to look forward to.” Eslinger can also look forward with the Zebras. She is just a sophomore. In fact, she was the only 10th-grader to compete in the 108-pound class at the girls state championships at Lemoore High. And Eslinger could be the first Lincoln athlete to place second as an individual in a state competition. Two victories put Eslinger in the finals against Gilroy senior Jasmine Yanez, who won 11-0. Yanez will not be standing in Eslinger’s way at this time next year. Eslinger will return with one goal. Eslinger’s success in wrestling will not surprise to those who know her. Her father, Blaine, is the wrestling coach at Twelve Bridges Middle School. Her brother, Tyler, wrestles at Twelve Bridges. “Wrestling is part of her family life,” Maul said. “She does this because of her love for the sport. Being second in the state is a pretty amazing achievement. That’s a heck of a feather in her cap.” Maul described Eslinger as “spunky and tenacious.” Eslinger prefers to think of herself as stubborn. “A lot of the boys think girls can’t keep up with them,” she said. “I can do what anybody else does, regardless if I’m a boy or girl. A lot of my friends don’t know why I do it. They think I’m crazy.”