Del Oro, Placer stars could clash in quarterfinal

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Joe Thornton and Austin Branum train just a few miles apart. They’ve spent the last few weeks collecting medals and bringing championships back to their respective foothills campuses. And today at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters wrestling tournament, Thornton and Branum could meet for the first time, then battle in perhaps the most important match of the season. Thornton, a Placer senior, and Branum, a Del Oro junior, happen to be two of the top 140-pound wrestlers in the section. Should they both win their first two matches today at the Stockton Arena, Thornton and Branum would square off with a berth to state on the line. “I know who he is, but I don’t know him,” Thornton said of Branum, who is ranked sixth in the state by “I like to find out who I’m wrestling at the table. I know a lot of guys look at the bracket and scout who they’re wrestling, but I don’t like to know.” Thornton will be joined by 171-pound senior Steven Cox and senior heavyweight John Medina at Masters. “I think all three of us have a decent shot at making it to state,” said Thornton, who dominated the Division III field to win the title at Natomas. Branum, who won the Division II championship last weekend at Hiram Johnson, will have some more company from Loomis. Seven Golden Eagles will compete at Masters, including 171-pound Division II champion Jake Uhler. Division II runners-up Kevin Burrage (152) and Foster Fretland (160) are aiming for state championship bids, which go to the top four finishers at Masters. Isaac Blackburn (103) and Patrick Neu (135) placed fourth at the Div. II tourney. Kevin Love (189) was sixth. Bear River will send three wrestlers to Masters, including Division III champion seniors Jory Gemignani (112) and Juan Gudino (119). Junior Nick Sauers (130) will also compete. Senior Vinny Correlejo will represent Colfax at 160.