TCW 2017 California State Wrestling Championship Preview
By Michael Cho, Pablo DiMaria, Bill Grant, and Al Fontes
A NEW DYNASTY?
As a state, California tends to be big all over – with nearly 40% more people than the next state – but in high school wrestling, has always embraced the single-division wrestling tournament. Over the years, most other states (45 of 50) have transitioned into multi-division formats but California remains steadfast with the mono approach – consequently, the state wrestling tournament is widely considered the toughest in the country. It draws 560 wrestlers across 14 weight classes from a pool of over 27,000 competitors (from over 900 schools). The most mentally and physically tough wrestlers will reach the medal podium after the brutal, two-day, double-elimination journey. Who will go home with a coveted state medal – given to 8 wrestlers per weight? Team trophies will also be handed out to the four highest scoring teams. Traditional powerhouse programs litter the field but will anyone be able to catch the defending champions from Buchanan?
No. 1 BUCHANAN – The Bears emerged as the state’s dominant program in 2016 – ending rival Clovis’ five-year run as state champions – and nearly breaking the team scoring record with 274.5 points. This year’s incarnation is just as great, with a stacked line-up featuring defending state champions Matt Olguin (113) and Ethan Leake (120), as well as a powerful quartet ranked either #1 or #2 in state: #2 Brett Villarreal (138), #1 Joel Romero (160), #1 Anthony Montalvo (182), and #1 Cade Belshay (220). Buchanan is ranked #2 in the country, staking their claim among the nation’s best with an unblemished run through in-state competition and their second consecutive title at The Clash XV in Minnesota. But with only 3 of their 14 state qualifiers graduating this year, are we in the middle of what will soon be called a dynasty? It appears so. Coach Troy Tirapelle explained, “Many teams use the ‘family’ term loosely. However, I truly believe that this group cares deeply for one another and therefore has done special things, and will keep doing special things going forward. The kids want to build a dynasty and leave their own legacy … this is their chance.” And is the team ready to give it their all? Tirapelle said, “The state meet is always the best time of the year. We talk all year long as a program about that metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. Now, it is within their grasps.”
No. 2 CLOVIS – Coming off an unprecedented five consecutive state titles (2011-2015), it’s difficult to look at the Cougars as underdogs. But with their fiercest opponent (arguably the nation’s best rivalry) located less than 5 miles away in the state’s wrestling capital of Fresno, Clovis will need to produce some postseason magic to wrest the team title from a dominant Buchanan squad. Ranked #7 in the country, the Clovis team will bring 12 to the state meet, including two of the most dominant wrestlers in our state’s history. Senior Justin Mejia (126) aims to win his fourth state title at his fourth different weight – if he succeeds, he will only be the second CA wrestler ever to claim that feat. His teammate, junior Seth Nevills (285) follows in Justin’s historic footsteps, seeking his third title in his third trip – and amazingly, with zero losses on his high school ledger. The Cougars’ efforts will be supported by a pair of state #2-ranked middleweights Brandon Martino (160) and Victor Vargas (170) and will also lean on Giano Petrucelli (106), Brandon Paulson (113), and Jacob Good (182). Coach Adam Tirapelle feels his team has a shot, “We expect to compete and put ourselves in position to win the title. We’ve been behind the #2 team in the nation all year long and if all goes according to ranking, we’ll finish second. But anything can happen at the state tournament and we aim to wrestle our best. We’ve done a lot over these last 12 months and if they aren’t ready now, they just won’t be ready. As we tell the kids, this is the fun part … enjoy it.”
No. 3 POWAY – Coming off an amazing 30th straight San Diego section title, the Titans will retain their customary position among CA’s elite programs. Well-traveled, with team titles at Gilroy Mid Cals, Temecula Valley, Las Vegas Holiday, and a 12th place finish at the prestigious Walsh Ironman in Ohio, Poway is currently the #12 ranked team in the country. Poway qualified 12 for the state meet and is led by senior Quentin Hovis (152), the #1-ranked wrestler in the country at his weight. He will be supported by a talented group of returning state medalists, Chase Zollman (126), Scott Kiyono (132), and Hampton Boyd (160), as well as freshman stand-out Dominic Mata (145). Coach Wayne Branstetter, whose Poway teams have won four state titles during his legendary tenure, likes his team’s chance to bring home a team trophy, “I believe my kids are ready … the ‘hays in the barn.’ As in all competitions, whoever shows up will determine their fate – our state is ridiculous with lots of spoilers but that’s also what makes it so great. We feel good about maintaining our respectable ranking of #12 in the nation but when you have two schools in your state ranked #2 and #7 [Buchanan and Clovis], it may be a real stretch to catch them. But we’re hoping to be on the podium right there alongside them.”
GILROY – As dominant as Poway have been in their section, Gilroy have rolled through the Central Coast Section, with their 15th consecutive section title. A stalwart in the state’s top 10, seeking a thirteenth straight top-10 finish at state this year, the team has qualified nine – no senior among them – to the state meet. Junior Alex Felix (132) is seeking his first state title after finished 3rd and 4th during his first two years. Fellow junior Nick Aguilar (113) is a considerable threat to claim the state title after finishing runner-up last season. After sitting out the past season with injuries, junior Antonio Andrade (195) has made up for lost time, reaching a status of state #2. Also looking for their first state medals are sophomores John Fox (138) and Joe Barnes (160). Coach Greg Varela explains that the team is excited to compete on the biggest stage: “12 months of preparation for one weekend – we’re ready! They are kids so nerves will come and go so we like to have them say aloud their goals and commitments they have made through-out the year to get to this point. It reassures them that they have lived the right way and deserve to wrestle their best.” Coach Bert Mar adds, “We always want to set our sights on a state title – as a team we are realistic that the numbers game is not in our favor. But as individuals, it is important to not look at anyone like they are giants because they will see us as grasshoppers. We are giant killers and to win at this level, you have to take down the giants.”
The Drillers qualified nine to the state meet and will be led by defending state champion Navonte Demison (145) and two-time state medalist Sam Loera (182). JJ Figueroa (138) also returns after suffering a season-ending injury in 2016 and will seek his second state medal. Also in the mix for state medals are Izzak Olejnik (126), Dillon Cravens (152), and Ricardo Gonzalez (160). Coach Frank Lomas and his team are excited about the possibilities: “Our team goal is bring a state plaque home as a team. For that to happen, we need all nine of our state qualifiers to win matches whether it be in championship or consolation. We have an older group this year and mentally, I think our guys are focused and excited about the opportunity in front of them. They know the whole season culminates to these final two days and whatever happened earlier means nothing now. We are excited to go out and compete in front of the home crowd.”
ST. JOHN BOSCO (S)
Fresh off their Southern team title, the Braves seem to be peaking at the right time. With eight state qualifiers, the team benefits from an enviable mix of young and old – four freshmen, sophomore, junior, and two seniors are among the qualifiers. Danny Salas (195) is seeking a third state medal and expected to compete for an individual title. Supporting his efforts are Christian Nunez (120), David Aranda (220), Jacob Bueno (160). The fab four freshmen include Tim Levine (106), Guillermo Escobedo (170), and a pair of stand-outs who are already among the best the state has to offer, Jesse Vasquez (113) and Sonny Santiago (138). Coach Omar Delgado believes his team can bring home a team trophy: “We hope to finish in the top 5 this year – the team is young but exciting group of student-athletes. Vasquez and Santiago hope to challenge for state titles and continue with the Bosco recent tradition of freshmen state champions, with Valencia brothers, Pico, and Olivas.”
Northview qualified six to the state meet and are strong at the ends – with top-ranked Eddie Flores (106) and Jackson Serna (285) leading the charge. Also expected to score serious points are returning state medalist Steven Comstock (170) and a trio making second trips to state – Dom Arellano (113), Gabriel Cortez (132), and Ricky Marin (138). Having transitioned from 31st to 22nd to 17th to 11th in their four previous state showings, can the Northview squad continue their upward momentum? Coach Bobby Bellamy explained the team’s mentality heading into state: Wrestling is one of the most honest sports and our boys have been training extremely hard. We expect them to leave everything they have on the mat and to finish with no regrets.”
RANCHO BERNARDO (SD)
Rancho Bernardo will bring seven to the state meet, including two elite competitors, returning state finalist Jaden Abas (126) and two-time state medalist and top-ranked Chasen Blair (195). The team is also strong up the middle with freshman stand-out Tyler Badgett (132), Charles Franchina (145), and returning state qualiifer Erik Salcido (152). Coach Joe Terribilini has lofty expectations for his squad but takes a big-picture approach, “Our goal is for our kids to enjoy the moment and just compete. The team placement will take care of itself in the end. The team is very focused and hungry – a really cool environment.”
CLOVIS NORTH (CS)
Frequent clashes with rivals Clovis and Buchanan during the past month alone – in league duals, league finals, divisionals, and sectionals – have primed the team for state success. This year’s Broncos have set a team record for state qualifiers (nine) and are led by top-ranked Chris Deloza (132), freshman sensation Devin Murphy (113), returning state medalist Eric Rivera (120), and some heavy hitters in the upperweights, Mark and John Halajian (195, 220), and Nathaniel Holloway (285), all making repeat trips to state. Coach Ben Holscher feels his team has taken a rugged path to state and it will pay off during the final days of the season: “We’ve been working hard every day to make a statement each weekend – and we plan on doing that this weekend as well. We are ready to compete! Each individual has been training to be the best version of themselves and that’s what we expect as a staff. Time to let the fur fly!”
Other teams to watch include Selma (Central), Vacaville (Sac Joaquin), Oakdale (Sac Joaquin), Del Oro (Sac Joaquin), De La Salle (North Coast), Frontier (Central), Dinuba (Central), Sultana (Southern), Lemoore (Central), and Alta Loma (Southern).
INDIVIDUAL WEIGHT-BY-WEIGHT PREVIEW
Headlining this weight are two returning state medalists – Eddie Flores (Northview, Sr.) and Antonio Lorenzo (Del Oro, So.). Both bring undefeated records to the state meet. A folkstyle All-American, Lorenzo had a remarkable run before the season even started, winning the Super 32 Challenge held in North Carolina, one of the toughest tournaments in the country. On strength of that title, he is currently ranked #3 in the nation. Flores is at #16 but owns a slightly higher (6th vs. 7th) state medal from the previous year. Who will end the weekend with a perfect record? The Southern section will also feature returning state qualifier and folkstyle All-American Jonathan Prata (Downey, Jr.) and Aaron Nagao (Esperanza, Fr.), who has split matches with Prata this season. The Central section will have something to say regarding the medal distribution with their champion and returning state qualifier Cole Reyes (Frontier, So.), finalist Giano Petrucelli (Clovis, Fr.), and section bronze Tristan Lujan (Selma, Fr.). Jacob Allen (Poway, Jr.) is a returning state qualifier who reached the quarterfinals last year – and the two-time San Diego champion will look to make the next step this weekend. Others to watch include North Coast champion Dakota Unpingo (Freedom, So.), Sac Joaquin freshmen standouts Caydin Wickard (Golden Valley, Fr.) and Izzy Tubera (Pitman, Fr.), Daniel Galvan (Alta Loma, Jr.) and Central Coast rivals Adam Arenas (Lincoln, Fr.) and returning state qualifier Eric Sanchez (Silver Creek, Jr.), who’ve split four matches.
Returning state champion and NHSCA national titlist Matt Olguin (Buchanan, So.) will be the favorite at the starting blocks. However, the nation’s 2nd-ranked competitor has a trio of foes who are established at the national level in their own right. Nation’s 6th-ranked Jesse Vasquez (St. John Bosco) will try to follow the footsteps of fabled St. John Bosco alum (Zahid and Anthony Valencia, Aaron Pico, and Cade Olivas) to win a state title as a freshman – he sent shockwaves through the national scene with a runner-up finish at the Walsh Ironman event in Ohio. Another fabulous freshman in the mix is Devin Murphy (Clovis North, Fr.), whose only in-state losses have been to Olguin and Vasquez. He sent shockwaves himself with an upset win over the next featured star at the Doc Buchanan quarterfinals. Nick Aguilar (Gilroy, Jr.) is a returning state finalist and has a single loss on his season resume (to Murphy). Aguilar possesses an impressive list of achievements at the national scene, with titles at Junior Nationals freestyle, NHSCA nationals, and Cadet Nationals Greco-Roman, among multiple other top three finishes. Nathan Yanez (Roosevelt, Jr.) is a returning state qualifier and Southern runner-up. He enters the state meet with only two season losses. Brandon Paulson (Clovis, So.), an NHSCA All-American, will look to make the medal rounds – he has certainly been tested, with eight of his season losses coming in the hands of Olguin, Murphy, and Aguilar. San Diego should have two medal contenders with Carson Sauriol (Poway) and two-time folkstyle and Greco-Roman All-American Oscar Nellis (Rancho Buena Vista, Sr.). Sauriol claimed the San Diego title and Nellis will be making his third appearance at the state meet. Others to watch include two-time state-qualifier Dom Arellano (Northview, Sr.), three-time state qualifier Riley Siason (Alvarez, Jr.), three-time state qualifier Mateo Sanchez (Central, Jr.), and two-time Sac Joaquin champion Matt Hruby (Vacaville, Sr.).
Please fasten your seatbelts – this could be a wild ride! Leading this awesome weight is returning state champion and NHSCA All-American Ethan Leake (Buchanan, Jr.). He brings a perfect record to the state meet, including a Doc Buchanan title and an All-Tournament finish at The Clash XV event in Minnesota. The path to the top of the medal podium will be rocky one and will inevitably go through the Southern section’s “wrecking crew”, who own five of the top 7 state seeds. Champion Cleveland Belton (Temescal Canyon, So.) leads the group but is followed closely by returning state medalist Luciano Arroyo (Calvary Chapel, So.), three time state qualifier and Air Force-signee Sidney Flores (Bishop Amat, Sr.), Alex Nunez (Alta Loma, Sr.), who is seeking his third state medal, and returning state qualifiers Chance Rich (Valencia, Jr.) and Christian Nunez (St. John Bosco, So.). The Sac Joaquin section brings an equally deep group led by champion Angelo Martinoni (Folsom, Jr.), returning state medalist Greg Viloria (Merrill West, Sr.), and Jacob Seto (Elk Grove, Sr.). Both Viloria and Seto will be making their fourth state appearances. Others to watch include a talented trio from the Central Coast, champion Abel Pena (Watsonville, Jr.), runner-up Angelo Reyes (Fremont, Jr.), and bronze Chase Saldate (Gilroy, Fr.) – Saldate has four wins over Viloria and Alex Nunez. The superior depth continues with Central finalist and returning state medalist Wyatt Cornelison (Clovis, Sr.) who is a University of Pennsylvania signee, returning state medalist Eric Rivera (Clovis North, So.), North Coast champion and three-time state qualifier and Greco-Roman national champion Patrick Ramirez (De La Salle, Sr.), San Diego champion Kenji Beato (Mt. Carmel, Jr.), and North Coast runner-up Aaron Perez (James Logan, Jr.)
Every blue moon, there is a special weight class that people will be buzzing about for years to come. In the field are nine wrestlers with state medals on their resume – a remarkable 17 medals in all. A tenth wrestler owns a title from another state (New Mexico). With multiple wrecking balls on a collision course, who will come out on top? Illinois-bound Justin Mejia (Clovis, Sr.) is ranked #3 in the nation and seeking his fourth state title at his fourth weight classes (106, 113, 120, and now at 126). A two-time Flo All-American, Mejia looks to join exclusive company – in the state tournament’s 44 year history, only one competitor has amassed four titles (Bakersfield’s Darrell Vasquez, class of 2002). But the path to history is a very complicated one. Fellow Central rivals will look to topple Mejia’s dreams – two-time state medalist and Super 32 medalist Isaiah Perez (Dinuba, Sr.) and three-time state medalist and NHSCA All-American Robert Garcia IV (Selma, Sr.). Perez nearly upended Mejia at the Central semifinals last weekend, losing by the slimmest of margins – 4-3 in ultimate tie breaker. Fresno State-bound Garcia IV then faced Mejia in the finals and dropped a close 3-2 decision. Speaking to the depth of the weight class, we’re several sentences in and finally mention Jaden Abas (Rancho Bernardo, So.), a returning state finalist who’ve also earned All-American status in freestyle and NHSCA. Currently Perez (#9), Abas (#18), and Garcia IV (#19) join Mejia in the national rankings. San Diego competitor Chase Zollman (Poway, Jr.) is a two-time NHSCA finalist who will be in the hunt for a third state medal. Adam Velsaquez (Pitman, Sr.) is making his fourth trip to the state meet and finished fifth last year. Kyle Parco (San Ramon Valley, So.) is a Cadet National All-American and enters state as the North Coast champion. Isaiah Palomino (Bellarmine, Sr.) looms large as a three-time state medalist and the three-time Central Coast champion looking to peak in his final state appearance. Three-time state qualifier and Southern champion Elijah Palacio (Calvary Chapel, Jr.) aims to break into the top 8 for the first time, though his body of work was mostly crafted at 120 – where his only losses were 1-point defeats to highly ranked Olguin and Belton. Others to watch include Tyler Deen (Buchanan, So.), a New Mexico state champion as a freshman, Sac Joaquin runner-up Lokahi Tonge (Elk Grove, Jr.), returning state medalist Enrique Landeros (Orland, Jr.), returning state medalist Izzak Olejnik (Bakersfield, Jr.), who is rounding into postseason form having claimed Central bronze, and a trio of talented competitors from the Southern section – runner-up Trey Munoz (Trabuco Hills, So.), three-time state qualifier and Fresno State-signee Jeremy Trinh (Oxnard, Sr.) and three-time state qualifier Jose Rubio (Barstow, Sr.).
As unpredictable a weight as any this year, 132 features a solid mix of returning state medalists and younger up-and-comers looking to spoil the party. There is no clear-cut favorite going into the state meet: Chris Deloza (Clovis North, Sr.) aims to finish his senior year in style and fortuitous timing, as he appears to be in best form in recent works. A two-time National folkstyle finalist, Deloza won the Yosemite Divisional and Central section title, with wins of two fierce rivals. Gary Joint (Lemoore, Sr.) is a returning state medalist (3rd place) and before his move to California, a two-time state finalist in Kansas. The Fresno State-bound Joint is a three-time All-American in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman styles and also finished 6th at the Walsh Ironman in Ohio. However, the past two weekends, he’s dropped two matches to Deloza. Two-time NHSCA national finalist Alex Felix (Gilroy, Jr.) may very well be due for his first state title as he’s finished 4th and 3rd in two previous state trips. After missing his junior campaign, Elijah Ozuna (Frontier, Sr.) has returned with a vengeance – he has dropped matches to Joint and Felix but has won 3 of 4 match-ups against the aforementioned Deloza. University of Virginia-bound Scott Kiyono (Poway, Sr.) finally won his first San Diego title, after finishing runner-up in three previous San Diego runs. The returning state medalist is hoping his fourth and final trip to the state meet will end in a higher spot on the podium. Sac Joaquin champion Ricky Torres (Oakdale, Fr.) surprised a few folks with a state medal during his freshman year but he has backed it up with an impressive sophomore campaign. He is joined from the Sac Joaquin with Ryley Boutain (Benicia, Jr.), who has shown considerable improvement during the past year. Dalton Lakmann (Foothill, Jr.) will be making his second trip to the state meet and as one of the top competitors from the Northern section, he is expected to make the state podium. The Southern section is well-represented with champion Aaron Diaz (Canyon Springs, Jr.), Stanford-bound Anthony Le (Laguna Hills, Sr.), and Gabriel Cortez (Northview, So.), all making return trips to the state meet. Also keep an eye on Ray Cordova (Alta Loma, Sr.), who has battled injuries in the past but making a strong senior push, winning Southern bronze. Others to watch include Josh Brown (Esperanza, Sr.), Wyatt Peverill (Buchanan, Jr.), JT Stinson (Del Oro, Fr.), and Ronnie Reyes (Hanford East, Jr.).
It comes as no surprise to see the Central section so well-represented in this preview. Similar to 126, the top three competitors at 138 hail from the area. After suffering an injury last year during the postseason, Jaden Enriquez (Mission Oak, Sr.) has the state title in his sights after finishing runner-up in 2015 and 4th as a freshman. Speaking to the quality of the section, Enriquez recently won his first Central title, beating quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals opponents – all by ultimate tie breaker. The Michigan State-bound and multiple folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman All-American will have his hands full yet again this weekend. Returning state medalist and two-time Central runner-up Brett Villarreal (Buchanan, Jr.) is an NHSCA and folkstyle All-American and his unorthodox style makes him a dangerous foe for anyone. Like Enriquez, JJ Figueroa (Bakersfield, Sr.) dealt with hearbreak last year, sustaining a late injury which knocked him out of contention. The two-time folkstyle All-American and Fresno State-signee will look to make the most of lost time with a strong run this weekend. Lawrence Saenz (Vacaville, Jr.) was on the cusp of making the state podium last year and has positioned himself well for his third state appearance. Alejandro Raya (Yucaipa, Sr.) will also be making his third state trip and enters state with only two losses on the season. Freshman sensation Sonny Santiago (St. John Bosco, Fr.) placed at Cadet Nationals folkstyle before his freshman year and earned Southern bronze, punching his first, of many, tickets to the state meet. John Fox (Gilroy, So.) was a match shy of the state podium during his freshman campaign and the Central Coast champion has proven worthy, with only two in-state losses, both close matches to Villarreal and Figueroa. Returning state medalist Tony Mendoza (Selma, Jr.) will be making his third trip to the state meet and may very well make a prolonged run in the championship rounds. Others to watch include San Diego representatives Josh Tolentino (Poway, Jr.) and Greco-Roman All-American Bernie Truax (Rancho Buena Vista, Jr.), three-time state qualifier and Stanford-signee Steven Abbate (Central Catholic, Sr.), Southern finalist Isaiah Mora (Esperanza, Jr.), and three-time state qualifier Adrian Salgado (ML King, Jr.).
A returning state champion and state runner-up who clashed the previous year headline this weight. Arizona State-bound and nation’s #2-ranked Navonte Demison (Bakersfield, Sr.) is looking to join the exclusive group of four-time state medalist club, as well as win another state title. The two-time junior folkstyle national champion and Fargo finalist in junior freestyle should be challenged by returning state finalist and NHSCA All-American Jacob Wright (Dinuba, Sr.), who has signed to continue his career at Fresno State. Two other strong competitors looking to challenge for a spot in the finals include Peyton Omania (De La Salle, Jr.) and Cal Poly-bound Zander Silva (Alta Loma, Sr). An accomplished All-American Greco-Roman wrestler, Omania placed fifth at state last year and also earned a spot on the Junior World Team. Silva is seeking his third state medal and is a three-time All-American at Folkstyle Nationals. The Sac Joaquin Section has a strong trio in three-time state qualifier and Stanford-signee Jack Ramalia (Granite Bay, Sr.), Roger Monroe (Elk Grove, Sr.), and Jake Ryan (Oakdale, Jr.). Ramalia has just fallen shy of the medals rounds in two previous trips to state, reaching the quarterfinals both times. Other medal contenders include two-time state qualifier and NHSCA All-American Tristian Zamilpa (Buchanan, Jr.), Beau Bradley (Monache, Jr.), and Southern finalist Brandon Esparza (Santiago, Sr.). Keep an eye on sensational freshman Dominic Mata (Poway, Fr.), NHSCA All-American Nathan Villarreal (Gilroy, So.), Central Coast champion and Greco-Roman All-American Alex Escudero (Los Gatos, Jr.), and Troy Mantanona (Palm Desert, So.).
The nation’s top-ranked wrestler stakes his claim at this weight. A three-time state champion in Arizona, Quentin Hovis (Poway, Sr.) seeks to add a California title to his resume. Winning the prestigious Walsh Ironman Invitational in Ohio, as well as earning a countless array of All-American honors at national freestyle, Greco-Roman, and folkstyle events, Navy-bound Hovis will be very tough to beat. The top challenger is returning state bronze medalist and three-time folkstyle All-American Josh Kim (Santiago, Jr.). Earlier this year in the finals of the Temecula Valley Battle for the Belt tournament, Kim lost a hard fought match to Hovis, a 3-2 OT tiebreaker. Three-time state qualifier and Cal Poly-signee David San Miguel (Bellarmine, Sr.) has two losses to CA opponents this year – Hovis and Kim. With All-American honors at the NHSCA and freestyle Nationals events, he is a strong medal hopeful. Sac Joaquin brings a strong contingent to state – returning state medalist Noah Blake (Del Oro, So.), section champion Jeff Skyrud (Folsom, Sr.), who has a pair of wins over Blake this season, and three-time state qualifier and folkstyle All-American Fernando Lanza (Benicia, Sr.). Other contenders include San Diego runner-up Erik Salcido (Rancho Bernardo, Sr.), Central champion Jace Luchau (Selma, So.), three-time state qualifier Jonathan Garcia (Frontier, Sr.), Southern stand-outs Troy Madrigal (Servite, Jr.) and Nassir Grissom (Santa Monica, Sr.), Northern champion Russell Rucklos (Foothill, Jr.), and North Coast champion Perez Perez (Windsor, Sr.).
The odds-on favorites to reach the finals are two top-ranked wrestlers from the tough TRAC League in the Central Valley who have battled and split four matches this year. Returning state medalists Joel Romero (Buchanan, Jr.) and Fresno State-bound Brandon Martino (Clovis, Sr.) anchor this weight. Romero was 3rd in state as a sophomore (at 138) and earned All-American honors at NHSCA Nationals while Martino earned a 5th place finish (152) at state. Other strong contenders from the Central section include three-time state qualifier and three-time Greco-Roman and folkstyle All-American Ricardo Gonzalez (Bakersfield, Sr.), NHSCA All-American Oscar Diaz (Selma, Jr.) and NHSCA All-American Mark Cardwell (Monache, So.). The San Diego area sends two strong podium hopefuls in returning state medalist Hampton Boyd (Poway, Sr.) and FLO All-American Aaron Olmos (Mater Dei Catholic, Sr.). Others in line for a potential state medal include the Southern trio of Jordan Bernal (Littlerock, Sr.), Sam Azar (Aliso Niguel, Sr.), and two-time state qualifier Jacob Bueno (St. John Bosco, Sr.), as well as Central Coast champion and NHSCA champion Joseph Barnes (Gilroy, So.). Three top wrestlers out of Sac Joaquin will also be in the mix – NHSCA All-American Bronson Harmon (Oakdale, Jr.), Dylan Valderrama (Yuba City, So.), and William Costanzo (Del Oro, Jr.), all making return trips to state.
An overwhelming favorite for a state title is Anthony Mantanona (Palm Desert, Sr.), a returning state finalist. Ranked sixth nationally and Oklahoma-bound, Mantanona is a Greco-Roman and FLO National champion and has accumulated a massive list of pins – most under a minute – against CA competition. Make sure to focus on his matches and they may end very quickly. He will be joined by a strong core of Southern wrestlers – returning state medalist Steven Comstock (Northview, Jr.), two-time state qualifier Joey Griego (Sultana, Sr.), and two-time state qualifier Jean-Paul LeBosnoyani (Mira Costa, Sr.). Also aiming for a spot in the finals are returning state medalist Abel Garcia (Oakdale, Sr.), and Central champion Victor Vargas (Clovis, Sr.), who was a match shy of the medal podium last year. Several medal hopefuls abound from the Central valley, including NHSCA All-American Christian Rodriguez (Selma, So.), Jeremy Maas (Liberty, Sr.), Jake Levatino (Buchanan, Sr.), and Dylan Miracle (Madera South, Sr.), all making second or third appearances at the state meet. Isaiah Perez (Pitman, Jr.) has found great success transitioning from 138 and the Sac Joaquin runner-up will look for his first piece of state hardware. Other contenders include section champions from the Central Coast, North Coast, San Diego, and Northern areas: freshman Nicholas Villarreal (Gilroy, Fr.), Jonathan Hackett (De La Salle, Sr.), Uriel Beristain (Mater Dei Catholic, Jr.), and Max Schumacher (Paradise, Sr.).
Three returning state medalists – including a state finalist – highlight this amazing weight class. University of Oklahoma recruit Anthony Montalvo (Buchanan, Jr.) is seeking an individual title after falling just short the year previous. The NHSCA National champion should see some serious challenges from Sac Joaquin champion Colbey Harlan (Oakdale, Jr.), as well as two-time state medalist and folkstyle All-American Sam Loera (Bakersfield). Harlan only has two in-state losses (both to Montalvo) while Loera has only dropped matches in-state to Montalvo and Harlan. A pair of Southern wrestlers should also contend – two-time state qualifier Ryan Cosio (Temecula Valley, So.) and section runner-up and returning state medalist Josh Loomer (Cajon, Sr.). Cosio has not lost to CA competition and has two wins over Loomer. Matt Martinez (Alvarez, Jr.) secured his second straight Central Coast title and San Diego champion Nathan Tausch (Poway, Jr.) will be making his second trip to state. A strong trio hails from the Central section behind Montalvo – Fresno State-bound Angel Solis (Lemoore, Sr.), who was a Walsh Ironman medalist, two-time state qualifier Jacob Good (Clovis, So.), and William DeBoer (Frontier, Sr.). Others to watch include North Coast champion Adrian Chavez (Liberty, So.) and two-time runner-up Connor Aiello (Las Lomas, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Justin Medeiros (Lodi, Sr.), Gerardo Hernandez (Capistrano Valley, Jr.), and Dylan Turkowski (Sultana, Sr.).
After two close calls in previous trips to state, finishing with 4th and 5th place medals, NHSCA champion and University of North Carolina-bound Chasen Blair (Rancho Bernardo, Sr.) will be a strong favorite to walk away from Rabobank with a state title in hand. Right behind Blair is two-time Central Coast champion Tony Andrade (Gilroy, Jr.), Central champ and NHSCA champion Ryan Reyes (Clovis West, So.), and two-time state medalist and two-time Greco-Roman All-American Danny Salas (St. John Bosco, Sr.). Andrade missed last season but has made a triumphant return to the mat, a key win over Reyes at his hometown Mid Cals event. Reyes is a supremely talented sophomore (his older brother Nikko was a two-time state champion) and after finishing 7th in state as a freshman, he will aim to make the leap into the state finals. Salas, a Fresno State-signee who placed 4th at Walsh Ironman in Ohio, aims for this third state medal. Other Southern wrestlers vying for state medals are runner-up Arick Lopez (Yucaipa, Sr.), Kyle Marshall (San Clemente, Sr.), Brayden Ray (Santiago, Jr.), and Cody Williams (Lakewood, Sr.), with the first three all making their second trips to state. The Central section also features three-time state qualifier Trevor Ervin (Buchanan, Jr.), two-time state qualifier Ruger Wyneken (Clovis, Sr.) and returning state medalist Adrian Godinez (Foothill, Sr.). Others to watch include Los Angeles City champion Hamzah Al-Saudi (Palisades Charter, Jr.) Sac Joaquin champion Nemo Chapman (Inderkum, Sr.), and a pair of Central Coast representatives Kevin Ruiz (Alvarez, Sr.) and Michael Camacho (San Benito, Sr.).
After competing in the 170 weight class the previous two years, Cade Belshay (Buchanan, Sr.) made the leap to 220 and the returning state medalist has been a dominant force – undefeated versus all instate competition and holding a top 20 national ranking. If the University of Pennsylvania-bound senior wins the 220 title this weekend, he would become the third wrestler from the TRAC league to have done so, following Seth Nevills (Clovis) in 2015 and teammate Zach Levatino (Buchanan) in 2016. Two-time state medalist Darryl Aiello (De La Salle, Sr.) should be the most likely opponent under the Saturday evening spotlight and will look to avenge two earlier losses to his Buchanan rival. A trio of Southern wrestlers that could emerge as state medalists includes Joey Daniel (Santa Ana, Jr.), Dominik Urena (Elsinore, Jr.) and Cal Poly-signee Sam Aguilar (Sultana, Sr.). All three are making their second appearances at the state meet. Three-time Northern champion Tony Rogers (Chester, Jr.) was injured in the quarterfinals of last year’s state tournament and unable to compete for a state medal. If he is 100% healthy, he could be a serious contender. Others to watch include four-time state qualifier Kobe Rosas (Coalinga, Sr.), three-time state qualifier Ty Muxlow (Kingsburg, Sr.), three-time state qualifier John Halajian (Clovis North, Sr.) Central Coast champion Victor Jaquez (Bellarmine, So.), Sac Joaquin champion Dylan Amos (Casa Roble, Jr.), Zachary Myers (Vacaville, Sr.), and two-time state qualifier David Aranda (St. John Bosco, Jr.).
Still undefeated in his HS career, powerful Seth Nevills (Clovis, Jr.), the #2 ranked heavyweight in the country, will be the odds-on favorite to win his third straight state title this weekend – and continue on the path to four state titles. An unorthodox wrestler, Nevills is not your typical heavyweight – he moves like a lightweight so watch for quick takedowns and points from the top position. The last of the famed Nevills Bros. (alongside Zach, Nick, and AJ, they have combined for seven state titles), Seth is fully expected to grow the title count to eight, barring a monumental upset. Two-time Greco-Roman and folkstyle All-American Jake Levengood (Vacaville, Jr.) is a returning state medalist and should contend for a spot in the finals. But he is joined by good company from the Sac Joaquin section – returning state medalists Jesus Flores (Delhi, Sr.) and folkstyle All-American Pablo Miller (Del Oro, Sr.). Both are battle-tested at the state level and understand what it takes to get on the medal podium. After an early-season loss, Gavin Nye (Corning, Sr.) has an unblemished record – the two-time state medalist and multiple Greco-Roman and freestyle All-American will look to improve his previous 6th and 7th place finishes. Armando Barcenas (Hanford, Sr.) has been wrestling solid all season long and could challenge for a spot on the podium, as could Nathaniel Holloway (Clovis North, Sr.). Jackson Serna (Northview, Sr.) became a two-time Southern champion this past weekend and could emerge as a state medalist this coming weekend. Others to watch include two-time state qualifier Austin Gilham (Sultana, Jr.), Southern bronze Tony Dacosta (Torrance, Sr.), Noah Wright (Lemoore, Sr.) – who has wins over Miller and Nye this season – two-time state qualifier Luke Cruz (South San Francisco, Sr.), and Randy Gonzales (Lakewood, Sr).