For the first time in four years of running a wrestling tournament, Liberty Hawks wrestling coach Jay Pumarejo finally gets his team to wrestle at home — in the Liberty High School gymnasium.
“Since my arrival in the community, the administration has been very supportive,” he said. “Us hosting at Liberty High for the first time is a perfect example of how much they love our program. We’re excited to have it at Liberty.”
After the first three years at Ranchos Middle School, the tournament moves to Liberty for Saturday’s event and will host the most teams in its history — 16 teams.
“Playing at Liberty is home for those kids,” Pumarejo said. “Hosting it at RMS, they felt comfortable. The administration and staff there spoiled us. They treated us like royalty. We are thankful for them. For our kids, they want to wrestle in their home gym.”
Some would think that the high school gym is bigger, Pumarejo said that the RMS gym is acutally bigger that the Hawks’ gym.
“The gym is not bigger than at Ranchos by a few feet,” Pumarejo said. “We have the foyer to make it more family and fan friendly. We will have a great snack bar and a booth with the National Guard.”
Originally, Pumarejo labeled his dual-meet tournament the Big 12 Duals. However, with more than 12 teams, he has had to re-name his tournament the Mad Ranch Duals with 16 teams.
“Originally, it was at 18 teams, but it’s at 16,” he said. “Not only are we trying to build something special, but we want to provide this for California.
“We have all the Clovis schools with the exception of Clovis. We have Central coming in. From out of town, we have Buhach Colony from Atwater, Pioneer Valley from Santa Maria. We have teams coming from the southern part of the valley such as Shafter and Wasco.”
In addition to those schools, both Madera and Madera South will also wrestle at Liberty.
“It’s great to have both Madera teams there,” Pumarejo said. “It’s been great having working relations with those schools. The whole Central Section is represented. We’re proud and happy about the participation.”
Pumarejo is proud to see the growth of the tournament and realizes it’s not because of what he does for the event.
“What a blessing it has been,” Pumarejo said. “I have been saying it after the first year that it is easy to tell the growth of the tournament and the popularity of it is more than just me. It’s a reflection of our booster clubs, the community and athletes of how popular this can be.
“The goal has always been to host an attractive event. If there is a need to expand the event, we will. Going into this fourth year, a solid foundation has been built. California is going more towards duals. We got ahead of the game a little bit. We will continue to provide a good event.”
One of the reasons why the Mad Ranch Duals is an attractive event is because it’s a dual-meet tournament with teams battling each other instead of individuals like in the Chukchansi Tournament.
“It’s a good challenge tournament,” Pumarejo said. “It’s revealing for a lot of coaches for what they have because they are tested right away at a tough event. At the same time, what’s attractive also is the coaches don’t have to chase after their own kid. They get to watch their whole team wrestle.”
Another feature that Pumarejo likes to hang his hat on is that he does what he can to get the tournament to be over before it gets dark. He tries to get the tournament over by 4 p.m.
In addition, Liberty will host the JV Mad Ranch Invitational on Friday.
“We have 22 schools, but the registration is still open,” Pumarejo said. “We will have a couple more Fresno school involved. That’s such a great event. The medal rounds end up being very tough. A lot of schools are figuring out their lineup.”
Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. both days at the Liberty High School gymnasium.