WRESTLING WITH TRADITION
By Michael Cho, Bill Grant, and Al Fontes
The California Wrestler.com
California is one of a handful of states in our country that has a one division state championship. 560 competitors from 263 schools will vie for one of 14 individual state titles – ranging in weight class from the small (106) to the big (285 pounds). The field will be as diverse as the state itself, but all will have the singular goal of standing on the medal podium on Saturday night. In addition, winning a state team title or accepting one of the top four team awards is an honor that will stay with a team, their families and communities forever, especially considering the fact that there are over 800 schools in California with wrestling programs.
We are all proud of the label put on the California State Wrestling Championships as being the toughest and most prestigious state tournament in the United States.
This year, six traditional state wrestling powerhouses will look for the top spot on the victory stands:
Clovis – Assuming the role of pre-tournament favorite, the defending state champions Cougars lead the pack with 13 state qualifiers, including six Central Section champions and six returning state medalists who include: defending state champion and 3-time medalist Daniel Gaytan (120), defending state champion Nick Nevills (285), 3-time medalist and 2010 finalist Zach Nevills (170), 5th place Jonas Gaytan (113), 7th place Adrian Salas (160), and 7th place Dakota Gordon (195). With tradition on their side, this well-balanced team has won six major invitationals – including the Doc Buchanan and Temecula Valley titles – and has been consistently ranked top 5 in the nation this season. The team also finished 3rd at The Clash X in Minnesota, which attracts some of the best wrestling programs in the country. Clovis is looking to clinch their 10th state title in its school history. Assistant Coach Adam Tirapelle said, “We have high expectations … this is about as good a group as we have ever had. Our seniors are good role models and set a good example in the classroom and in the community. They just do things the right way and that becomes contagious. Our good chemistry has become infectious and led to a very cohesive team on and off the mat.”
Bakersfield – Coming into their hometown arena with nine section qualifiers, the Drillers (state runner-ups in 2011 and state champions in 2010) return five state medalists: 2-time medalist Natrelle Demison (138), 4th place Micah Cruz (132), 6th place Maxx Ramirez (145), 4th place Silas Nacita (170), and 4th place Coleman Hammond (152). The team finished 2nd at Doc Buchanan and 3rd at Temecula Valley. Coach Andy Varner feels his team can make a serious run for the team title. With three NHSCA National All-Americans, his team leaders are setting the tone for an outstanding performance this weekend: “We prepare for this weekend from day one. We’re hoping for some big surprises, which always happen at this tournament! This is a fresh start and the beginning of what we have been waiting for all season.”
Poway – The Titans will enter Rabobank Arena with 12 qualifiers, which include six San Diego Section champions, three runner-ups and three bronze medalists. Poway set a tournament record by winning the team title at Reno TOC and also finished 3rd at Doc Buchanan and 2nd at Temecula Valley. Leading the way for the Titans are returning state medalists Victor Lopez (132), who was a state runner-up in 2010, and 1-time Colorado state champion Connor King (170). Also in the mix is a pair of 4-time state qualifiers in Josh Miranda (120) and Jesse Taylor (138). Poway recently won their 30th San Diego Masters title (including the last 25 in a row) but has their sights set on the state meet. Coach Wayne Branstetter is focusing on a possible fifth state championship: “Our goal is to be in the Top 3 or better. We have the right chemistry and competitive young men that can make that happen – everyone is pulling for each other. We’ve had a lot of kids over the years believe they can achieve at this event!”
De La Salle – The Spartans recently broke the North Coast Section tournament record for team points (with 318) and, with eight state qualifiers and six section champions, look primed to improve upon their 4th place finish at last year’s state meet. Returning state medalists include 4th place Alex Abono (145), 7th place Justin Walker (195), and 4th place Joe Moita (126).
Vacaville – In winning the Sac Joaquin Section for the 14th time in school history, the Bulldogs qualify nine – including three section champions and two runner-ups – for the state tournament. Returning state medalists are 8th place GIonn Peralta (106) and 5th place Johnny Schupp (285). According to Coach Adam Wright, “We’re certainly happy to qualify nine and be in the thick with the other contenders. Our goal is to be on the podium. Those are special people on the podium … that’s our goal. We’re feeling our kids are peaking at the right time, are healthy, and ready to compete.”
Gilroy – Securing an unprecedented 10th straight Central Coast Section championship, the Mustangs are riding into town with six qualifiers including three section champions. Returning state medalists are 3rd place Nikko Villarreal (132) and 8th place Paul Fox (126). State #1 and CCS champion Willie Fox (145) hopes to lead the Mustangs to the top of the podium this Saturday. Coach Greg Varela said, “Every time they step on the mat, I want our kids to do their best. We want them all to medal this weekend. We are coming here to win it. We want them to never give up fighting till the very end and stay inspired. Our Hawk kid’s wrestling club is the basis for our success. We travel all summer and compete all over the country. Our parents are very supportive and our former wrestlers continue to help coach our kids, which continues to make us strong.”
The best of the rest include: Lemoore (Central Section), Elk Grove (Sac Joaquin Section), St. John Bosco (Southern Section), Clovis West (Central Section), Central Union (San Diego Section), Selma (Central Section), Northview (Southern Section), College Park (North Coast Section), Folsom (Sac Joaquin Section), Healdsburg (North Coast Section), Orland (Northern Section), Centennial (Southern Section), Righetti (Southern Section), Bella Vista (Sac Joaquin Section), and Newark Memorial (North Coast Section).
The opening weight class should provide plenty of fireworks. Southern Section champion Zahid Valencia (St. John Bosco, Fr.) has won everything in sight, including the most prestigious and respected tournament in the country – Walsh Jesuit’s Ironman Invitational in Cleveland, OH. He is currently the #1-ranked wrestler in the country at this weight class. If the pundits have it correctly, Valencia should match up against a familiar foe in the finals on Saturday night – defending state champion and Junior Freestyle runner-up and Junior Greco-Roman champion Johnson Mai (North Torrance, Sr.). Valencia has two one-point victories over Mai this season – at the Walsh semifinals and the Southern Section finals. Two returning state medalists at this weight will definitely have something to say about the final results of the medal distribution: San Diego champion Alfredo Espinoza (Otay Ranch, Jr.) and Sac Joaquin champion Gionn Peralta (Vacaville, So.). They finished 7th and 8th at last year’s meet. Central Section champion Miguel Martinez (Madera, Sr.) is a serious contender, as is San Diego runner-up and Five Counties champion Vincent Elizalde (Brawley, So.), who was a match shy of the medal rounds in 2011. Another freshman star Isaiah Hokit (Wasco, Fr.) finished second to Martinez at the Central Section tournament and will be a threat. Sergio Mendez (San Fernando, Jr.) is a two-time Los Angeles City Section champion and looks to improve his top 12 finish at last year’s state meet. Others to watch include North Coast Section champion and 2-time state qualifier Troy Lakin (Clayton Valley, Sr.), Tirso Lara (Poway, Jr.), Vincent Parra (Northview, So.), two-time state qualifier Adrian Camposano (Central, So.),Joey Cisneros (Redwood, So.), and Julian Gaytan (Clovis, So.).
Parity is the operative word for the multi-talented weight class. With five returning state medalists, the competition will be fierce. Central Section champion Jonas Gaytan (Clovis, Jr.) placed 5th at last year’s state meet (at 112 pounds) and has won six tournaments this season – including the Doc Buchanan and Temecula Valley titles at 120 pounds. Two-time Central Coast Section champion Isaiah Locsin (Live Oak) was a state runner-up (at 103 pounds) last year but is having an undefeated sophomore campaign. He has won the Reno TOC, Doc Buchanan, and Temecula Valley titles. Locsin and Gaytan are on a collision course to meet in the finals but judging by the credentials of several contenders, there will be some roadblocks on their path to the top of the state podium. San Diego champion Micah Perez (Central Union, Jr.) was 3rd in state in 2010, a NHSCA Nationals finalist, and 3rd at the 2011 Junior Freestyle Nationals. Central Section runner-up Arnulfo Olea (Exeter, Jr.) placed 4th at this weight last year and has won seven titles this year. In the Central Section semifinals, Olea beat Mason Pengilly (Porterville, So.) who has a 4th place medal in last year’s 103 pound weight class and also a Cadet Freestyle All-American. Southern Section champion and 2-time state qualifier Christian Martin (Chino Hills, Sr.) leads an impressive crew from the South which include runner-up Nathan Pike (Diamond Bar, Jr.), 2-time state qualifier Matt Nader (Canyon, Sr.), 3-time state qualifier George Torres (La Quinta, Sr.), and AJ McKee (Long Beach Poly, Jr.). Others to watch include Jason De La Cruz (Buchanan, So.), 2-time state qualifier Johnny Sanchez (Santa Ana, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier Seth Hood (Monache, Jr.), 2-time state qualifier Sean Williams (Lemoore, Jr.), and the Sac Joaquin champion and runner-up, Juan Garza (Oakdale, Jr.) and Gabe Balderas (Ceres, Jr.) – both making their second state meet appearance.
Daniel Gaytan (Clovis, Sr.) is the defending state champion and looking to finish his impressive prep career with a bang – he has also placed 3rd and 4th in previous trips to the state meet. But he does not go into his final state appearance as the #1-ranked wrestler at the weight class. That title belongs to Hermilio Esquivel (Orland, Sr.), who is undefeated on the season, a 2-time state medalist, and beat Gaytan in a roller-coaster 10-9 win at the Zinkin Classic. Esquivel is also a NHSCA All-American. Another returning state medalist is Emilio Saavedra (Modesto, So.), who was 3rd at last year’s 103 pound weight class and also the 2011 Flo Nationals champion. The Southern Section’s two finalists could certainly be in the hunt with Dean O’Bourke (Fountain Valley, Sr.) and Giovanni Castillo (Centennial, Sr.). O’Bourke has collected six tournament golds this season and only has a single loss (wrestling up two weight classes). He is also a Junior Greco-Roman All-American and making his second trip to the state meet. Taylor Hall (Canyon Springs, Sr.) and Jordan Gurrola (North Torrance, Jr.) are both 2-time state qualifiers and will challenge for state medals. NHSCA All-American and Sac Joaquin champion Kasey Klaus (Vacaville, Jr.) will be making his third appearance at state and will be a contender – he has only lost twice this year, both times to Jonas Gaytan, who is the #1-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds. North Coast Section champion Joe Ramirez (De La Salle, Sr.) is making his second trip to state and the wrestler he beat in the section finals is Tyrin Stevenson (McKinleyville, Sr.), a 4-time state qualifier. Stevenson has been knocking on the door for a state medal in his previous appearances and will look to break through this weekend. Others to watch include 4-time state qualifier Josh Miranda (Poway, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier and Sierra Nevada champion Brandon Rodriguez (Clovis West, Sr.), 3-time state qualifier Clayton Buchanan (Chester, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier Zeke Andrade (Foothill, Jr.) and the Central Coast Section finalists for the past two years: Andres Delagnes (Menlo Atherton, Sr.) and Victor Olmos (Gilroy, So.).
Fans have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Valencia brothers into the high school wrestling scene for years … and they have passed all the pre-state tests. Zahid has dominated the 106 pound weight and his brother Anthony Valencia (St. John Bosco, Fr.) is doing considerable damage at 126. A Cadet Freestyle All-American, Valencia finished 8th at Walsh Ironman and won the Doc Buchanan and Temecula Valley tournaments. Evan McKirdy (Del Norte, Sr.) is making his third state appearance and is having an impressive senior year, winning six titles and losing only to Daniel Gaytan of Clovis in the Temecula Valley finals. Both Valencia and McKirdy have beaten Josh Rodriguez (Righetti, Sr.), who is a returning state finalist and 3-time Southern Section champion. Columbia-bound Joey Moita (De La Salle, Sr.) won his third North Coast Section title recently and was 4th in state in 2010. He is also a Junior Greco-Roman National champion. Paul Fox (Gilroy, So.) medalled at state as a freshman, finishing 8th at 112 pounds, and also won the NHSCA Freshman Nationals in Virginia Beach. Jake Smith (Newark Memorial, Sr.) missed portions of the season due to injury but is a 3-time Virginia state medalist and 2011 Virginia state champion. He is also an NHSCA All-American. The Sac Joaquin Section has a trio of challengers in champion Johnny Callas (Nevada Union, Jr.), runner-up Sean Melton (Ponderosa, Sr.), and bronze medalist 3-time state qualifier Connor Pollock (Folsom, Sr.). Watch out for Pollock – he won the Sierra Nevada Classic and was runner-up at Doc Buchanan, where he beat returning state champion Daniel Gaytan (Clovis). Keep an eye on Central Section champion Vicente Hernandez (Clovis, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier Michael Knoblauch (Clovis West, So.), Northern Section champion and 3-time state qualifier Mason Sauseda (Chico, Sr.), and Jesse Calderon (La Quinta, Jr.).
The 132-pound weight class features one of the greatest wrestlers in CA history – the country’s top ranked Alex Cisneros (Selma, Sr.). Cisneros is seeking to become only the second CA 4-time state champion ever – following the footsteps of Bakersfield legend Darrel Vasquez (1999-2002). This year, Cisneros has claimed eight tournament titles, including the Doc Buchanan and Five Counties crowns. He also finished 3rd at the Walsh Ironman in Ohio for the second consecutive year, arguably the toughest tournament in the country. But the Cornell-bound star with a career prep record of 173-3 (entering the state meet) will have tough competition in what looks to be one of the deepest weight classes in the state. Fifteen of the top 16-ranked wrestlers at this weight are returning state qualifiers! Close behind Cisneros is Nikko Villarreal (Gilroy, So.), a phenom who placed 3rd at last year’s state meet. He is also an NHSCA All-American and finished 5th at Cadet Freestyle Nationals. Only a sophomore, Villarreal has lost twice to Cisneros this year by the slimmest of margins – 4-3 double-OT at Doc Buchanan and 1-0 at Mid Cals. Equally a threat to deny Cisneros’ shot at history is a talented junior who is also well acquainted with Cisneros – Central Section rival Javier Gasca (Kingsburg, Jr.). Gasca has only lost three matches this year – all to Cisneros, including one that went to triple-OT. When Cisneros bumped up a weight class mid-season, Gasca reigned at 132, claiming titles at Zinkin, Doc Buchanan, and Five Counties, among others. In any other year, Martin Ramirez (Elk Grove, Sr.) would be considered a heavy favorite for the state title. But he will have to contend with Cisneros, Villarreal, and Gasca for the top step on the state podium. Ramirez is a 3-time Sac Joaquin Section champion and a 4-time state qualifier. He earned 3rd and 5th place medals in previous trips to the state meet and is an NHSCA Nationals runner-up in 2011. Four more competitors from the Central Section are considered dangerous threats – 2-time state qualifier Matthew Gay (Clovis, Sr.), returning state medalist Micah Cruz (Bakersfield, Sr.), 3-time state qualifier Patrick Phaysamone (Clovis East, Sr.), and 2-time state qualifier Martin Sandoval (Porterville, Jr.). The weight class rounds out with an impressive contingent from the Southern Section: section champion and Cadet Greco-Roman All-American Blayne Briceno (Crespi, Jr.) – who has lost only once all year long – 3-time state qualifier Tim Maldonado (Los Osos, Sr.), section runner-up and NHSCA All-American Christian Pagdilao (Centennial, Jr.), and Michael Longo (Calvary Chapel, So.), who was a state qualifier as a freshman and finalist at Cadet Greco-Roman Nationals. Also primed to step on the state podium are 2-time San Diego champ Victor Lopez (Poway, Jr.) and Adam Pain (Rodriguez, Sr.) – Lopez was a state finalist at 103 pounds in 2010 and Pain placed 6th in CA last year – as well as North Coast Section champ, Jon Jay Chavez (De La Salle, So.), who won the Cadet Greco-Roman Nationals last year, and Julian Purdy (Nevada Union, Sr.), the Sac Joaquin runner-up who is a two-time All-American at Junior Greco-Roman Nationals.
In December, Shayne Tucker (Bella Vista, Jr.) took control of the weight class by winning the Reno TOC – for the second consecutive year. There, he beat both Natrelle Demison (Bakersfield, Sr.) and Gilroy’s Villarreal to lay claim as the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 138 and has yet to relinquish that position. The talented Tucker is a 2-time Sac Joaquin champ and finished 4th in CA last year. The Air Force-bound Demison has accumulated an impressive resume over the years. Renowned for his quickness, Demison has 3rd and 5th place medals from his previous trips to the state meet, is a 2-time All-American at Cadet Freestyle Nationals, and was a NHSCA National runner-up in 2011. Brian Sergi (College Park, Sr.) is a 3-time North Coast Section champ who is looking to end an illustrious career on the medal stand. This season, he was runner-up at the Sierra Nevada Classic and has collected six tournament golds. Sergi also holds All-American status by placing at both Cadet and Junior Greco-Roman Nationals. Andrew Schulte (Centennial) successfully defended his Southern Section title and is a 3-time state qualifier. He has reached the finals in every single tournament this season and has only lost twice – both to the aforementioned Alex Cisneros. Also looking to make a splash are Southern Section runner-up Jacob Leon (Alta Loma, Sr.), who is making his second trip to the state meet, 2-time Central Coast Section champion Zac Contreras (Riordan, Jr.), Central Coast Section runner-up and UPenn-bound Alfred Murabito (Saratoga, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Racelis Cardenas (Buchanan, Sr.), Central Section runner-up Jason Ladd (Clovis, Jr.), 4-time state qualifier Jesse Taylor (Poway, Sr.) and Daniel Valles (Northview, Jr.). Others to watch include Josue Hernandez (Madera South, Sr.), former state medalist and 3-time state qualifier Dillen Rocha (Lemoore, Sr.), and Chris Garcia (Clovis West, So.).
Willie Fox (Gilroy, Sr.) has been on a mission this year. A 3-time Central Coast Section runner-up, he recently won his first section title. Earlier in the season, he won the Doc Buchanan title, gaining a certain measure of revenge by beating Bakersfield’s Demison, who had knocked him out of the 2011 state tournament. And now the 3-time NHSCA All-American (including the 2010 champion) looks ready to claim the elusive state title. He will look to impose his non-stop, suffocating style on a pair of North Coast Section rivals. Alex Abono (De La Salle, Sr.) has made two previous trips to the state meet, placing 4th last season. He also earned All-American status by placing at the Junior Greco-Roman Nationals and Cadet Freestyle Nationals. Abono prevented Adam Hendrickson (Healdsburg, Sr.) from claiming his third North Coast Section title but the Healdsburg star is still a considerable threat – he has two state medals (6th and 7th) and always seems to be on the top of his game when the stakes are highest. Central Section champ Maxx Ramirez (Bakersfield, Sr.) placed 6th in CA last year and will look to break into the top three in his final trip to the state meet. Luke Wilson (Righetti, Sr.) and Bryan Salinas (Northview, So.) both missed the state medal rounds by a single match in 2011 and should be in position to improve their outcomes this time around. Salinas is also an NHSCA All-American and is a Cadet Nationals All-American in Freestyle and Greco-Roman. Seth Whisner (Rim of the World, Sr.) is another returning state qualifier in the hunt for his first state medal. Keep an eye on Sam Duchene (Simi Valley, Sr.), who had an outstanding Southern Section tournament, beating Whisner, Wilson, and Salinas – all returning state qualifiers – in successive matches to win the title. Others to watch out of the Central Section include Michael Martinez (Wasco, Sr.), making his fourth trip to the state meet, Isaiah Morfin (Selma, Sr.), section runner-up Tyler Hartsfield (Liberty, Sr.), and Osamuyimen Osunde (Lemoore, Sr.). The Sac Joaquin Section will be led by two juniors looking to break through at the top level of CA wrestling: champ Ray Lomas (Central Catholic, Jr.), a 2-time state qualifier, and Sean Tow (Union Mine, Jr.), who is a 3-time state qualifier. Also from the section are NHSCA All-American Nick Fiegener (Folsom, So.) – a dangerous, up-and-coming competitor who has wins over Abono and Hendrickson this season – and 2-time state qualifier Kai Loechler (Vacaville, Sr.), who was a match shy of the medal rounds in 2011. Others to watch are two-time Northern Section champion Christian Wathen (Orland, Sr.), two-time Northern Section runner-up Pang Lee (Chico, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Mike Sitzman (Marin Catholic, Sr.), Central Coast Section finalist Luis Quintero (King City, Sr.), and San Diego champ Tavis Ino (San Marcos, Sr.).
Wrestling fans will be tracking the progress and potential collision course of two returning state champions at this weight class: Isaiah Martinez (Lemoore, Jr.), who won the state title at 140 pounds in 2011 and Jake Elliott (Oakmont, Sr.), who claimed the 145 pound title. An exciting, explosive competitor who can score from anywhere on the mat, Martinez is the second-ranked wrestler in the country and has not lost to CA opponent since the state quarterfinals during his freshman year. He has accumulated a length list of accomplishments: 3-time CA state placer, Flo Nationals champion, Cadet Greco-Roman National champion, and Cadet Freestyle All-American. This year, Martinez was 2nd at the Walsh Ironman in Ohio and won the Doc Buchanan and Temecula Valley titles. Elliott may have the tools to stop the talented Martinez. A smart, methodical wrestler, the Oakmont star has won five tournaments this year. Before claiming the Sac Joaquin Section title for the second consecutive year, he avenged an earlier season loss to rival Austin Branum (Del Oro, Sr.) at the divisional tournament. Branum is a returning state medalist (5th in 2011) and was Outstanding Wrestler at Tim Brown, where he upset Elliott 4-3. He has won five tournaments and finished runner-up at the Sierra Nevada Classic and NorCal events, where he lost to out-of-state opponents. Coleman Hammond (Bakersfield, Jr.) is an immensely talented wrestler who placed 4th in CA as a freshman but had a disappointing end to his sophomore campaign, where he lost a match before the medal rounds. Looking to make amends, Hammond started the season with a flourish, winning the Reno TOC crown. A two-time Central Section runner-up, Hammond has also won the NHSCA Nationals in 2010 and 2011 and is a Cadet/Junior Freestyle Nationals All-American. In the Doc Buchanan finals, he lost to Martinez by an 8-4 margin, the closest any CA opponent has come to upending the Lemoore star in over a year. Jorge Barajas (St. Francis, Sr.) joined select company in winning his fourth consecutive Central Coast Section title, and after coming close to medaling at the state meet the previous two years, the NHSCA All-American is looking for a break-through performance this weekend. Kyle Perreault (Clovis East, Jr.) is another dangerous wrestler out of the Central Section – he has a win over Hammond this year and is a Cadet Freestyle All-American and placed at NSHCA Nationals last year. Out of the Southern Section is section champ Corey Griego (Sultana, So.). Adam Wagner (Granite Bay, Sr.) missed the state medals rounds by a match last year and served notice to the state by beating Branum in the Sac Joaquin Section semifinals (he had lost to him in two previous matches this season). Renas Hassan (El Cajon Valley, Sr.) has won 8 tournaments this year and may surprise. The North Coast Section features champ Tyler Rardon (Livermore, Jr.) and runner-up Jack Fausone (Casa Grande, Sr.), who is making his second appearance at the state meet. Other to watch include two-time state qualifier Colby Thompson (Clovis, Sr.), Northern Section champ and three-time state qualifier Dallas Poston (Foothill, Sr.), Jacob Holley (Lodi, Sr.), and a strong group out of the Southern Section led by section runner-up Ryan Soto (Granite Hills, Sr.), Javier Arellano (Northview, Sr.), Colin Navickas (Marina, Jr.), two-time state qualifier Taylor McCormick (La Sierra, Sr.), and Trevor Behr (South Hills, Sr.)
This great weight class features a potential rematch of the state 152 finals – Joey Davis (Santa Fe, Sr.) and Victor Pereira (Newark Memorial, Sr.). This year, two-time defending state champion Davis has had no problems winning tournament titles – the only question is whether he claims the Outstanding Wrestler award. He won the Doc Buchanan title in impressive fashion, moving up to 170 pounds and beating Clovis great Zach Nevills in the finals. Davis also won the Flo Nationals title in 2011 and is an NHSCA All-American. Cal Poly-bound Pereira lost in the state finals to Davis in 2011 and the year before, placed 5th in CA as a sophomore. A 3-time North Coast Section champ and two-time Cadet Freestyle All-American, Pereira placed 4th at the Walsh Ironman in Ohio (after finishing 7th his junior year) and has claimed seven tournament golds this season. Central Section champ Adrian Salas (Clovis, Jr.), another returning state medalist (7th), handed Pereira his only in-state blemish so far this year, beating him at the Mission San Jose finals by a 4-3 margin. He will look to prevent the finals rematch. Stanford-bound James Wilson (McNair, Sr.) will look for a third state medal after finishing 4th in CA the previous two seasons. Sidelined with injuries for most of year, Wilson may be peaking at the right time, winning the Sac Joaquin Section title. He also holds All-American status by placing at Junior Greco-Roman Nationals and Cadet Freestyle Nationals; he is a 2010 NHSCA National champion. Wilson beat yet another returning state medalist at this weight class in the Sac Joaquin finals, Keaton Subjeck (Oak Ridge, Jr.). Subjeck is making his third trip to the state meet and has only lost twice this season, and only to Wilson in-state. 2-time San Diego champion Brady Beamon (Steele Canyon, Sr.) looks like a strong contender for a state medal – he has won seven titles this year. Also keep an eye on 2-time state qualifier Matt Tsarnas (Healdsburg, Sr.), Matt Williams (Sultana, Jr.), Central Coast Section champion Sam Hopkins (St. Francis, Sr.) and runner-up Kalen Gans (Palo Alto, Sr.) – both making their second trips to the state meet – 3-time state qualifier Josue Terrones (Washington Union, Jr.), and two other San Diego wrestlers, Jesse Whalen-Orona (Carlsbad, Sr.) and Stevie Cervantes (Poway, Jr.).
This is by far one of the most competitive weight groups in the state tournament – the tough Central “Valley” will definitely be the largest obstacle to overcome to make it into the state finals. Since the quarterfinals of last year’s state meet, both Silas Nacita (Bakersfield, Sr.) and Zach Nevills (Clovis, Sr.) have taken turns beating each other with Nacita winning the last battle. Each is ranked nationally among the country’s elite: Nevills is a 3-time state medalist (state runner-up in 2010 as well as 3rd and 5th place medals) looking for a rare fourth medal while Nacita is a 2-time NHSCA All-American focused to improve upon his 4th place finish last year. Dylan Morris (Redwood, Sr.) is a 2-time state qualifier looking to challenge for a high medal. He has posted great results – 3rd at Temecula Valley and 2nd at Mission San Jose (losing to Nacita and Nevills) and dominated the North Coast Section tournament with five pins. Josh McFadden (Central Union, Sr.) will be making his first trip to the state meet and finished second at the San Diego Section tournament to Connor King (Poway, Sr.). King is a dark-horse at the weight class – a 3-time Colorado state medalist and 2011 state champion – and is looking spoil the expected finals showdown between Nacita and Nevills. King took Nevills to overtime at Doc Buchanan and looks ready for a deep state run. The Southern Section is well-represented with 2-time Cadet Freestyle and Greco-Roman All-American Immanuel Barber (Canyon Springs, Jr.), 2-time state qualifier Jonathan Solano (Los Osos, Jr.), 2-time Southern Section runner-up Greg Meline (Edison, Sr.), and 2-time state qualifier Bradley Ojala (West Covina, Jr.). Also watch for Sac Joaquin champion Peter Santos (Oakmont, Jr.), who was a match shy of the state medal rounds last year, and 2-time state qualifier Mitchell Woods (Union Mine, Sr.).
This weight class features one of the elite wrestlers in the country – Nikko Reyes (Clovis West, Sr.) – and his list of achievements at the state and national level is growing, which includes two national titles at the NHSCA Championships. Undefeated, Reyes has racked up win after win against the top tier in California – Yoo, Pope, Davies, etc. – and had a dominating performance at the prestigious Doc Buchanan. Returning state medalist and Southern Section Champion Paul Yoo (Cypress, Sr.) looms to be Reyes biggest threat – he has captured seven tournament titles this year and finished 2nd to Reyes at the Doc Buchanan. Temecula Valley champ Kyle Pope (Bakersfield, Jr.) is making his second trip to the state meet and his only season losses have been to Reyes. Trevor Smith (Ripon, Jr.) defeated Yoo at Five Counties and enters the state meet with a single loss on his ledger. He has an unorthodox style and uses his length (at 6’3”) well – and don’t be surprised to see him challenge for a top 3 medal. Also in contention are Ryan Davies (Clovis, Sr.), Jon Wixom (Chaparral, Jr.), Northern Section champion and two-time state qualifier Mark Jorgensen (Chico, Sr.), Northern runner-up Westley Ruffer (Chester, Sr.), Sac Joaquin runner-up and 2-time state qualifier Chris Lai (Vacaville, Jr.), and a talented trio from the San Diego Section: Brit Bastow (Poway, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier Danny Knox (Carlsbad, Sr.), and Paul Head (La Costa Canyon, Sr.).
Four returning state medalists stand atop this weight class – and in a weight class where parity reigns, all four will be in position to win the state title. The favorite is Robert Marchese (Oak Hills, Sr.) who is a 2-time state medalist (7th and 8th place medals) and a NHSCA Nationals runner-up in 2011. He is undefeated for the year and won the Outstanding Wrestler award at Temecula Valley. Dropping from 215 pounds is Justin Walker (De La Salle), who finished 7th in state as a junior and is also a Cadet Greco-Roman All-American. The Cal Poly-bound star won his second North Coast Section title and has not lost this season as well. Dakota Gordon (Clovis, Sr.) finished 7th at the 189 pound weight class last year and has crafted a final senior campaign, winning the Doc Buchanan crown and finishing second at Temecula Valley – his only loss this season was 3-1 to Marchese. Dan Chaid (Bellarmine, Sr.) is the final returning state medalist at this weight class – finishing 8th at 189 last season. He will be making his third trip to the state meet and looking to keep the family tradition alive – his father (Dan) was a 2-time state champion (Gunderson H.S.) and an NCAA champion (University of Oklahoma) in the early 1980s. Kyle Lincoln (Yosemite, Sr.) was a match shy of the medal rounds last year and is a two-time Central Section runner-up – all three of his season losses have been to his section rival Gordon. The Sac Joaquin Section will be led by medal hopeful Khymba Johnson (Center, Sr.), who also was a match shy of medalling in 2011. Also keep an eye out for 2-time state qualifier Jack Murphy (Frontier, Sr.), 2-time Southern Section runner-up Elder Cruz (La Habra, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier William Gockel-Figge (Simi Valley, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier Anthony Flores (Alta Loma, Sr.), Northern Section champion Alex Campos (Chico, Sr.), and Jeramy Sweany (Vacaville, So.), a NHSCA All-American and Cadet Greco-Roman All-American.
Leading the way in a very well-balanced and unpredictable weight class is Sac Joaquin champion JT Goodwin (Bear Creek, Sr.). Unable to compete last year, Goodwin is more than making up for lost time by winning two of three matches against Austin Lobsinger (West Valley, Sr.), who is a returning state finalist, NHSCA All-American, and Cadet Greco-Roman All-American. Goodwin has won eight titles this season. Lobsinger finished 7th at Walsh Ironman and has won seven tournaments so far this season. The North Coast Section will be led by a pair of returning state qualifiers, champion Kyle Clark (Antioch, Sr.) and Alex Encarnacion (College Park, Sr.). Also in the running for state glory is the powerful Richard Durr (Poway, Sr.), who won the San Diego Section and placed 3rd at Reno TOC and Temecula Valley. Richard Black (Chavez, Sr.) became the first wrestler in his school’s history to qualify for state in 2011 and will naturally look to become the first to bring home state medal – he lost three matches by the slimmest of margins against Goodwin this year, including one that went four overtimes. Josh Letuligasenoa (Elk Grove, Sr.) defeated Black in overtime in the Sac Joaquin Section semifinals and looks prepared for a deep run in the state draw. Other contenders include Central Section champion Eric Mendoza (Madera, Sr.) Southern Section champion Tyler Smith (Marina, Sr.), and his section rivals 2-time state qualifier JJ Everard (Etiwanda, Sr.), Diego Vasquez (Vista Murrieta, Sr.), and Deion Williams (Orange Lutheran, Sr.).
Nick Nevills (Clovis, So.) did the unthinkable by winning the heavyweight state title as a freshman. This year has been no different – undefeated in state competition (his only loss was at The Clash X in Minnesota). But close behind with great finals potential is returning state medalist (5th in 2011) and nationally ranked John Schupp (Vacaville, Sr.). As a precursor to a potential match-up under the spotlight Saturday night, the two did not disappoint in the finals of the Doc Buchanan tournament – Nevills prevailed 10-8 in overtime, mounting a furious comeback after Schupp had built a large first period lead. As always, the heavyweight class has a great deal of parity and any one of the top 25-ranked wrestlers have a shot at standing on the medal podium. Michael Lowman (Foothill, Sr.) won the Sierra Nevada Classic and is a returning state qualifier. Jordan Avellla (Folsom, Sr.) is also making a second appearance at state and finished 2nd to Schupp at the Sac Joaquin finals. Rudy Amaya (Foothill, Sr.) was the Central Section runner-up to Nevills and is also making his second trip to the state meet. The Southern Section is well-represented by champion Nour Andullatif (Roosevelt, So.), who surprised his section by winning the title as a sophomore. He will be joined by 2-time Southern Section runner-up Robert Chism (Downey, Sr.), 2-time state qualifier Carl Hulick (Esperanza, Sr.), Elliott Taylor (Calvary Chapel, Sr.), and David Trujillo (Villa Park, Sr.). Also watch out for two Northern Section competitors, champion Victor Raigoza (Orland, Sr.) and 2-time section runner-up Scott Nelson (West Valley, Sr.), as well as all three qualifiers from San Diego: Kelly Simmons (Poway, Sr.), James Cannon (Escondido, Sr.), and Gabriel Casillas (Eastlake, Sr.).