DILLASHAW ON COURSE FOR STATE

December 23, 2002 11:00 pm

The journey to the other side of the rainbow if off to a promising start for Bret Harte High School wrestling star T.J. Dillashaw.

The Bullfrog junior, whose goal is to find the pot of gold — i.e., qualify for the State Tournament — has a 14-0 record after winning the 112-pound championship in the prestigious Coast Classic in Scotts Valley on Saturday.

Dillashaw won five matches in the 42-school tournament, scoring a double-overtime victory in the semifinals and then beating Sabi Matsuo of team champion Madera, 7-4, in the title bout.

"It was a pretty tough tournament," said Dillashaw, The Union Democrat's Athlete of the Week.

And it was the second tournament he has won this season, adding it to the title he claimed Dec. 7 in the Dos Palos Invitational. Next up is the toughest of the lot, the Sierra Nevada Classic on Friday and Saturday in Reno, where more than 90 schools will be represented.

Dillashaw is happy with his progress.

"It's going real good," he said. "I'm wrestling pretty good and we have a pretty good team this year, and that makes it more fun."

Dillashaw is being helped along by some tough intrasquad battles in practice.

"All our lower weights are really pushing each other to get better," he said. "From 112 to 135 is really tough competition."

One of those knocking heads with Dillashaw is Justin Middleton, who finished fifth at 125 in the Coast Classic.

Dillashaw is a second-generation Bullfrog standout. His father, Hal Dillashaw, was a Sac-Joaquin Section champion and fifth-place state finisher at 98 pounds and was inducted into the Bret Harte wrestling Hall of Fame out of the Class of 1975. He's now one of his son's coaches.

"(T.J.) has big goals and he's working hard to get there," the elder Dillashaw said. "He has to stay focused, which is hard to do in a long season."