A POWERHOUSE SHOWCASE
By Michael Cho, Pablo DiMaria, Bill Grant, and Al Fontes – TCW
When a student-athlete is crowned a California state champion, he stands alone. Unlike most states (45 of 50) pursuing multi-division formats for their year-end event, the state of California only has a single-division wrestling tournament. Throw in the fact that our state has nearly 40% more people than the next state … the sheer scale of achievement in winning a state title is immense. As a result, the state tournament here in the Golden State is considered the toughest and deepest in the country. The season starts with over 27,000 competitors from 900+ schools. A series of qualifying tournaments dwindle that number to 560 total wrestlers (from 243 schools) across 14 weight classes. And in the end, after a brutal, two-day, double elimination journey, only 14 individual champions are crowned and 112 make the state podium on Saturday night (top 8 medals per weight class). Team trophies will be given to the four highest scoring teams. This season, like many before it, several powerhouse programs will stake their claim for the top spot. Can Buchanan claim their third straight title? Or will the stacked line-ups of Poway, Selma, Gilroy, and St. John Bosco surge to the top? Welcome to the 46th edition of the California state wrestling tournament at Rabobank Arena!
PREVIEW OF THE TOP TEAMS
BUCHANAN (CS): After ending fierce rival Clovis’ five year run as state champions (2011-2015) in 2016, the Bears themselves are entering dynasty-level territory, seeking their third consecutive state title. Qualifying all 14 starters to the state meet is a good start for the nation’s 6th-ranked team. Leading the way is defending state champion Anthony Montalvo (182). He is supported by a formidable group ranked in the state’s top 5, including #5 Hunter Leake (106), #4 Maximo Renteria (113), #3 Ethan Leake (126), #3 Matt Olguin (138), #5 Chris Gaxiola (145), #3 Joel Romero (160), and #2 Trevor Ervin (220). Also expected to make deep runs in the tournament are #7 Tyler Deen (132) and #9 Tristan Zamilpa (152). Coach Troy Tirapelle has a senior-heavy line-up (17 seniors on their roster and 8 in the starting line-up) that has returned the program to national prominence during the past four years:
“It’s their turn now to leave their mark, their legacy. Each class wants to one-up those that came before them – to write their place in the history of Buchanan wrestling and California’s in general. I know they’re excited, eager for the day to be here.” There is a certain amount of pressure to enter the state meet as favorites but Tirapelle believes his team will embrace their “favorite” status: “We focus more on the fine-tuning and mental aspects of wrestling these last few weeks. We want to see our kids smiling and enjoying the process. It’s about over so they should understand that everything they have done to this point is culminating into something special. Don’t let it pass you by. I know the team wants nothing more than to keep their current streak alive. I’d have to say it’s championship or bust at this point. It’s the group that got the ball rolling, and they want to finish off what they started. They know that it is going to take everyone in order to make this dream a reality.”
POWAY (SD): This will be quite a historic weekend for the Titans. Their legendary coach of 40 years, Wayne Branstetter, is retiring after four state titles (as well as six runner-up and nine 3rd place finishes) and over three dozen San Diego section titles. But not so fast … could a fifth state title be close at hand? The Titans will do all they can to send off their long-time coach in grand style. Earlier in the season, they won the Reno TOC tournament, finishing ahead of Buchanan, who admittedly was missing several starters in the line-up. Could the Titan repeat this weekend, with both teams at full strength? Currently the 10th-ranked team in the country, the Titans also qualified all 14 to the state meet – and with points at a premium, Poway will need contributions from up-and-down the line-up. They are led by a seasoned quintet – #2 Jason Miranda (113), #4 Jacob Allen (120), #2 Chase Zollman (132), #1 Dominic Mata (152), #2 Nathan Tausch (182). Also expect strong performances from #8 Josh Tolentino (145), #8 Calvin Naraghi (160), #10 Javier Espinoza (220), and #9 Andrew Johnson (285). As always, Branstetter, who started his coaching career 45 years ago at Channel Islands, maintains a big picture view.
“We have high expectations. Buchanan will be tough to beat, as well as Selma and Gilroy. We have run into these guys all year so it won’t be any surprise.” In terms of preparation for the weekend, he feels that the team has been ready for the challenge since day one. “Nothing has changed in our preparation,” Branstetter explained. “I believe we are as ready as we can be. This is a great bunch of kids character-wise and wherever it ends up, it won’t be from a lack of effort on their part. Regardless of where we end up, we want to enjoy the ride.”
GILROY (CCS): Last weekend, Gilroy rolled through the Central Coast Section tournament for a sixteenth consecutive time, crowning 10 champions and compiling 373.5 team points – shattering the previous record (they set) of 297. With a dozen competitors in tow, the nation’s 17th-ranked program is hoping this year will be their moment to shine after 13th straight top-10 finishes at the state meet. The Mustangs are led by three seniors, two-time state finalist #1 Nico Aguilar (120), last year’s runner-up #2 Antonio Andrade (195), and three-time state medalist #3 Alex Felix (132). Not much would be sweeter than for all three to end their high school careers battling under the finals spotlight Saturday evening. Also expected to score significant points are #3 John Fox (152), #4 Joseph Barnes (160), #6 Chase Saldate (126), #6 Nicholas Villarreal (285), and #7 Jayden Gomez (106). Coach Greg Varela feels the final rung is within reach.
“Our expectations are always set on gold. We believe we have a tough team that can throw punches with just about anyone. Our kids have competed together as a team their entire lives and I feel they have a sense of loyalty to each other … more as a brotherhood than a program. We want to have the state championship, as does everyone else, but what I have really learned to do over the past nine years as head coach is to enjoy the journey a little bit more.” The team had not competed at full strength until recently – and Varela believes the team can continue to build on last weekend’s record-shattering sectional performance. “Our team is all – excited, hungry, raring to go. This will be a mental week more than anything. There really isn’t another gear of conditioning that can be reached – we try to peak the guys so they feel rested but ready for triple overtime. The kids are very excited about breaking CCS records but they are mature enough to know our biggest challenges are still in front of us. We have momentum and energy in our room right now and they can’t wait to leave for Bakersfield.”
SELMA (CS): After a 4th place finish in 2017, the Bears started the year with March 3 circled on their calendar – the day the team envisioned would be the final step in a long journey for state glory. With 12 state qualifiers, Selma is in serious contention to win an elusive state title (finished runner-up both 2009 and 2010). The margin should be slim amongst the top 4 in the team race so the Bears will need plenty of competitors to peak this weekend. Two will enter with #1 status, freshman sensation Richard Figueroa (106) and junior Christian Rodriguez (170). They will be supported by a strong core including #2 Tony Mendoza (145), #4 Jace Luchau (152), and #5 Tristan Lujan (113). Rounding out the strong line-up are #6 Robert Areyano (132), #8 Luis Ramos (138), #8 Xavier Moran (285), and returning state medalist #11 Oscar Diaz (160). Coach Sam Lopez explained that his team, ranked 14th in the country, has a target firmly in its sights.
“We are in pursuit of our first state title. We are expected to finish somewhere in the top 3. Coming into the tournament, we feel if everyone wrestles to their full potential, we can produce eight state medalists. It comes down to each individual, to reach down deep, and win those crucial must-win matches.” Lopez and staff will focus on hard drilling and situational wrestling but without overdoing it: “The atmosphere in the room is relaxed and one of having fun. ‘This is What We Train For.’ Our mindset is that we can’t wait for Friday. We are excited and look forward to the Big Show. Win or lose, Selma plans on putting on a show for all California wrestling fans.”
ST. JOHN BOSCO (SS): With a second consecutive Southern Section title in tow, the Braves have positioned themselves as a contender for a state team trophy. Qualifying a program record 10 wrestlers to the state meet (including an enviable 9 who are underclassmen), St. John Bosco is building towards both a strong showing this weekend as well as for the years to come. A top-ranked pair anchors the team’s efforts – juniors Antonio Lorenzo (113) and returning state champion Cleveland Belton (126). Also targeting their first trips to the medal podium are #5 Sonny Santiago (138), #8 David Aranda (220), #8 Christian Nunez (120), #9 Nathan Haas (170). Coach Jeff Anderson believes the team is rounding into form.
“I think we can earn a top five finish this year. We just came off a great Masters performance and if the guys keep wrestling like that, we can get a bunch of them on the podium. At this point in the season, the work has been done and it’s all about how bad you want it … and our boys want it bad.” Though the state symbolizes the end of the season, Anderson maintains a long-term view, especially for his young squad. “This is another stage in the process. It’s one of the best weekends of wrestling and such a great tournament where anyone can truly make a name for themselves. I’m looking for inspired performances from all our boys because I know they have it in them. They want to showcase who we are and what we can do. We talk about bringing the state title back to Southern California and the boys know it’s going to take an unreal effort to achieve that. Then I’m looking for them to show up on Monday to get back to work.”
OAKDALE (SJ): A top five finish is within sights for the Mustangs, who finished 7th in last year’s tournament. They qualify eight competitors, including last hurrahs for #1 Colbey Harlan (195) and #3 Jake Ryan (145). Both will continue their wrestling careers in college – Harlan at Stanford and Ryan at Cal Poly SLO – but there’s unfinished business to tend to with Harlan seeking his first state title after a runner-up finish last season and Ryan targeting his first state medal after injuries plagued most of his time in high school. They will be joined by #5 Gabe Martinez (170), #9 Ricky Torres (138), and #10 Henry Porter (120). Coach Steve Strange keeps the philosophy simple, taking it one competitor at a time:
“Our expectation is for each of our wrestlers to be at their best this weekend – the team is ready to go physically and mentally. If everyone does their job hopefully we can be in the competition for a team trophy on Saturday. But we are all excited and anticipating another great weekend at the state tournament.”
CLOVIS (CS): For many coaching staffs, it would be a career year to have a team reach #7 in state and attain a #37 national ranking, but with the Cougars, it’s been a difficult year. Yes, the benchmark is quite different for the biggest-of-the-big – Clovis has a record 13 state titles in their trophy room and has seemingly established permanent residence among the state’s top 3 – and speaks volumes to the program’s ability to churn out top finishes year-in, year-out. But in a reload year, there are plenty of storylines for the Clovis faithful. The Cougars are led by #1 Seth Nevills (285), one of the greatest wrestlers in state history and a shoo-in favorite to win his fourth state title. Yes, anything and everything can happen but Nevills is on a clear path (he has never lost to an in-state opponent) to becoming only the third CA wrestler to ever win four state titles. He will be joined by #5 Jacob Good (195), #6 Giano Petrucelli (113), and #7 Brandon Paulson (120), and #8 Justin Mouritsen (106). Coach Adam Tirapelle believes his team can make a run into the top 5, a spot Clovis hasn’t missed since 2006.
“This has been a tough year for a number of reasons and we’re just looking to compete and represent ourselves to the standard we’ve set over the years. Realistically, if we could finish in the Top 5, that would be a very successful finish.” Out of team’s nine qualifiers, only one is a senior – the esteemable Nevills. Tirapelle feels it’ll be a good experience for the young squad. “The kids that have done the work are excited to see how it plays out. We’ll have a few getting their first taste all the way up to Nevills. It should be a fun weekend.”
SANTIAGO-CORONA (SS): Two title favorites, both unbeaten this year against CA competition, will make or break Santiago’s run into the top 10. The team is led by senior Josh Kim (152), who was a state-runner-up last year, and defending state champion Jesse Vasquez (132), who is seeking his second title in as many years (won last year as a freshman at the 113 weight class). They will be joined by another contender for state gold, #4 Brayden Ray (220). Coach Scott Lawson is confident the group will have a weekend to remember:
“We are peaking at the right time and hoping to bring home some gold medals. Vasquez has been dominant this year and looks to add his second state title. Kim is seeking the gold as he continues to climb from a bronze medal as a sophomore and a silver medal last year as a junior. Ray is making his third consecutive state appearance and is not only looking to finish on the podium, but at the top. Adding to the excitement is our sophomore 106 pounder Troy Tadros, making his first trip to the state meet and gaining invaluable experience. Everyone is healthy and looking forward to an exciting weekend in Bakersfield!”
CLOVIS NORTH (CS): The Broncos rounds out what is the strongest concentration of elite wrestling in the state, if not the country. With #1 Buchanan, #3 Selma, and #7 Clovis within a half-hour drive, it can be convenient to overlook Clovis North, but bypass this team at your own risk. The Broncos feature one of the best freshman wrestlers in the country in #2 Ryan Franco (126). Also two elite sophomores are in the mix with #3 Carlos Negrete (106) and #5 Devin Murphy (120). Another medal hopeful is #10 Lajon Grier (132). A season highlight included their highest ever finish – 2nd – at the Yosemite Valley divisional tournament, right behind Buchanan. Coach Ben Holscher will bring a program-record-breaking nine qualifiers to the state meet.
“North wrestling is ready to scrap. Our goal as a team is to bring a style to each match that is entertaining for the fans. We want to score as many points as possible, in every situation we can, and when the match is over, we want everyone in the arena talking about how hard our guys wrestle. Our goal is to bring the fight each time and the results will take care of themselves! Our kids have worked very hard this year and wrote some pages in the North record books … and they plan to write some more pages this weekend.”
VACAVILLE (SJ): Coming off their second consecutive and 18th overall Sac-Joaquin section title, the Bulldogs are confident they are peaking at the right time. With nine qualifiers, including a pair of #2-ranked competitors in Lawrence Saenz (138) and Jake Levengood (285), Vacaville are targeting a top 5 finish as their ultimate goal. Coach Clint Birch feels his team is well-prepared:
“We’re really doing nothing different than we always do, just trying to build on our strengths and eliminate our weaknesses. We love the challenge of the day and the state meet provides several challenges for us to overcome, so we have to be tough!” Birch believes the tournament will be an exciting experience for the entire Vacaville wrestling community. “The coaches, wrestlers, parents, and fans of this year’s team are fired up and ready to take on the best there is in the state of California!”
RANCHO BERNARDO (SD): Having finished 22nd and 13th during the past two state meets, the Broncos are hoping to continue their upward trend for a top 10 breakthrough in 2018. Rancho Bernardo will bring a sizable group of led by a trio of elite underclassmen – #1 Jaden Abas (138), #9 Tyler Badgett (145), and #10 Jaden Le (126). Abas will be seeking his first state title after achieving silver and bronze his first two years while Le and Badgett are in the running for their first state medals. Coach Joe Terribilini feels the team is hungry and ready to compete:
“Our expectations are to wrestle to our ability and see where we stand when it’s all said and done. Being in the top 10 would be a great achievement for our athletes. We have nine qualifiers that are at various levels so we are hoping they all continue to peak and the right spots on the medal podium will find them!”
DE LA SALLE (NCS): The Spartans are hoping that the momentum built in winning their 8th North Coast Section team title in 9 years will transfer over to success at the state level later this week. Leading the team’s hunt for a four consecutive top 10 finish and potential entry into the top five is #1 Peyton Omania (145). He will be joined by seven other state qualifiers, including #7 Kyle Parco (126) and #9 Ankhaa Enkhmandakh (160). Coach Mark Halverson’s team has its sights on the finish line and don’t mind coming in somewhat under the radar:
“The kids are excited for the opportunity to compete and we have wrestled a schedule that has allowed us to see the majority of the competitors in the tournament, which we feel is a positive We would be pleased with several medalists, a couple of golds would be great, and the team finishing in the top five. We have had several wrestlers in the past wrestle above their rankings – so the team understands that anything is possible at this tournament. I’ve had the opportunity to coach at several World Championships and the Olympics … and like those two, this state tournament is full of tough competitors where no one is safe!”
Other teams to watch for a top 10 finish include Frontier (Central), Del Oro (Sac Joaquin), Bakersfield (Central), Northview (Southern), Monache (Central), Central (Central), Folsom (Sac Joaquin), Calvary Chapel (Southern), and Clovis West (Central).
INDIVIDUAL WEIGHT-BY-WEIGHT PREVIEW
106 POUNDS: The burden of expectations has accompanied Richard Figueroa (Selma, Fr.) before he ever set foot on the mat as a high schooler. In the preseason, he finished runner-up at the prestigious Super 32 Challenge held in North Carolina, an event which attracts many of the nation’s best and is considered one of the toughest tournaments in the country. Figueroa was also a Cadet All-American in freestyle (finishing 3rd) as an 8th grader. But he’s lived up to a lofty reputation – arguably the nation’s top lightweight freshman – by amassing a considerable body of work. Undefeated in CA competition, Figueroa has won titles at Doc Buchanan and Five Counties, on top of a 4th place finish at the Walsh Ironman in Ohio, the toughest regular season tournament in the country. He leads an impressive group from the Central Section, with runner-up Carlos Negrete (Clovis North, Fr.), Hunter Leake (Buchanan, So.), Justin Mouritsen (Clovis, So.), and Ramiro Castillo (Central, Jr.). Negrete is another freshman sensation, owning a 7th place finish at Walsh Ironman. At Gilroy Mid Cals, he was runner-up to North Coast champion and two-time Junior All-American Blake Fredrickson (Windsor, Jr.), who is undefeated on the season and will enter the tournament as a title contender. Incredibly, a defending state champion at the weight won’t be the favorite going in as Jonathan Prata (Downey, Sr.) lost to both Figueroa and Negrete at Doc Buchanan but don’t count the NHSCA national finalist and Junior Nationals folkstyle champion out. He has all the tools and savvy to navigate through a loaded draw. Other top wrestlers vying for the medal podium include Southern runner-up Bobby Pinto (Northview, Sr.), Central Coast champion Jayden Gomez (Gilroy, Fr.), and a strong contingent from the Sac-Joaquin section – champion Jake Stone (Oakmont, Jr.), Evan Ivaldi (Del Oro, Fr.), William Giron (Turlock, So.). Also keep an eye on Victor Atherton (Arroyo, Sr.) and San Diego champion Tommy Lavigne (Valley Center, So.).
113 POUNDS: Southern Section champion Antonio Lorenzo (St. John Bosco, Jr.) is a four time National All-American, two-time Super 32 medalist, and a two-time state medalist (finishing 3rd in CA last season). He’s ranked #10 in the country and the favorite to climb atop the heap at 113 pounds. He has traded victories this season against San Diego super sophomore Jason Miranda (Poway, So.) at the Cerritos TOC and Temecula Valley tournaments. A potential finalist is Aaron Nagao (Esperanza, So.), the Southern runner-up and returning state medalist. The Central section is very well-represented with champion Maximo Renteria (Buchanan, Fr.) – who only has a single loss against CA competition this season. Giano Petrucelli (Clovis, So.) is a returning state medalist and Doc Buchanan champion. He split matches this year with Central runner-up Tristan Lujan (Selma, So.), who was Five Counties champion and seeking his first state medal after reaching the quarterfinals last season. Sac-Joaquin champion and Cadet All-American Caydin Wickard (Golden Valley, So.) is a contender, as well as Southern bronze medalist Alex Ramirez (Rowland, Fr.), an immensely talented freshman who may be peaking at the right time. Others in the hunt for state medals are Central Coast champion Eric Sanchez (Silver Creek, Sr.), making his third state appearance, two-time state qualifier Dillan Ajtun (Downey, Sr.), Christian Cabuag (Monte Vista Christian, Fr.), Easton Amuro (Calvary Chapel, Sr.), Gus Petruske (College Park, Jr.), and Trevor Bagan (Analy, Sr.).
120 POUNDS: There will be nowhere to hide at this weight, perhaps the deepest weight class at the state tournament, featuring seven returning state medalists. Leading the pack is Rutgers-bound Nico Aguilar (Gilroy, Sr.), a four-time Cadet and Junior All-American, as well as an NHSCA national titlist and runner-up. With a pair of runner-up finishes at the state meet, all that’s missing from his trophy case is the elusive state gold. He will be challenged by Naval Academy recruit Jacob Allen (Poway, Sr.), a returning state medalist who has a win (in three close matches) against Aguilar, Southern champion and returning state finalist Eddie Flores (Northview, Sr.), a rugged CSU Bakersfield-bound competitor who finished 2nd at Junior Nationals folkstyle, and three-time Southern finalist Luciano Arroyo (Calvary Chapel, Jr.), who is seeking his third state medal in as many years. As always, the Central section will be incredibly tough with their top three competitors all possessing state medals: champion Devin Murphy (Clovis North, So.), Cole Reyes (Frontier, Jr.), and Brandon Paulson (Clovis, Jr.). Christian Nunez (St. John Bosco) is a Jr. Nationals folkstyle champion looking for his first state medal after narrowly missing the podium in two previous appearances. Others to watch include Sac-Joaquin champion Brenden Johnson (Del Oro, So.), finalist Henry Porter (Oakdale, Fr.), North Coast champion and four-time state qualifier Tony Margiotta (Las Lomas, Sr.), finalist Dakota Unpingco (Freedom, Jr.), three-time state qualifier Riley Siason (Alvarez, Sr.), Jacob Peralta (Vacaville, Jr.), Matt Vinci (Cathedral Catholic, Sr.), and Jonathan Viveros (Kingsburg, Fr.)
126 POUNDS: The man to beat in this weight is Cadet National folkstyle champion and defending state champion Cleveland Belton (St. John Bosco, Jr.). Undefeated against CA competition, Belton has secured eight tournament titles so far this season, including gold at both Doc Buchanan and Temecula Valley. Exceptional in all phases, Belton is on path for a second state title this season. His main competition should come from freshman sensation Ryan Franco (Clovis North, Fr.), who announced his intentions with a pair of wins in back-to-back weekends against 2016 state champion Ethan Leake (Buchanan, Sr.). Franco achieved the rare triple crown at Cadet Nationals events – with two runner-up finishes in Freestyle and Folkstyle and a fourth place finish in Greco-Roman. Northern Colorado recruit Leake, a four-time Central finalist, is aiming for his third state medal. CSU Bakersfield-bound Chance Rich will be making his third trip to state and looks to improve upon his 6th place finish in 2017. Three-time state qualifier Angelo Martinoni (Folsom, Sr.) has knocked on the door the past two seasons and will aim for a breakthrough during his final state trip. The Bay Area features a pair of talented competitors in Central Coast champion Chase Saldate (Gilroy, So.), who has a win over Franco and a close loss to Belton, and two-time North Coast champion Kyle Parco (De La Salle, Jr.), who is making his third state appearance. Other medal hopefuls include three-time state qualifier and Sac Joaquin runner-up Lokahi Tonge (Elk Grove, Sr.), two-time North Coast finalist Jose Fernandez III (Upper Lake, Jr.), San Diego champion Jaden Le (Rancho Bernardo, So.), Collin Hayes (Walnut, So.), three-time state qualifier and Junior All-American Aaron Perez (James Logan, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Cameron Santiago (Poway, Sr.), and Devin Holman (El Capitan, Jr.).
132 POUNDS: The dominant presence at this weight has been Jesse Vasquez (Santiago, So.), who is ranked as high as #3 in national polls. As a freshman, Vasquez won the state title at 113 pounds and he has made a seamless transition bumping up three weights, starting the season with an impressive 6th place finish at Walsh Ironman. During the offseason, he was also crowned Cadet Nationals folkstyle champion and also earned runner-up at Super 32. At Temecula Valley, he defeated University of Wyoming recruit Chase Zollman (Poway, Sr.). Zollman has amassed an incredible resume on his own right with three San Diego titles and state medals (3rd, 5th, and 7th) in three previous trips to the state meet. With only one season loss, he will vye for a Saturday showdown under the spotlight. Ohio-State bound Alex Felix (Gilroy, Sr.) lost in a tiebreaker to Zollman at the Mid-Cals event and is certainly no stranger to stepping up in big events. He has three state medals of his own (a pair of 3rds and 4th) and is also a three-time NHSCA national finalist. Another competitor looking to make his mark at his final state appearance is four-time state qualifier Elijah Palacio (Edison, Sr.), who finished 8th in CA last season. Two-time state qualifier Marcos Polanco (Bishop Amat, Jr.) is another podium threat, as well as three-time state qualifier and Central champion Robert Areyano (Selma, Sr.). Areyano is accompanied by a Central quartet of top 10 peers who have traded wins during the season, including Central finalist and returning state medalist Tyler Deen (Buchanan, Jr.), two-time state qualifier Andrew Bloemhof (Bakersfield, Jr.), four-time state qualifier Anthony Chavez (Central, Sr.), and Lajon Grier (Clovis North, Sr.). Keep an eye on talented two-time state qualifier Elijah Blake (Del Oro, So.), who is looking to climb the state podium for the first time, as well as Cael Valencia (St. John Bosco, Fr.), two-time North Coast champion Dwayne Guerrero (De La Salle, Jr.), three-time state qualifier Aaron Diaz (Canyon Springs, Sr.), and Sac-Joaquin runner-up Sammy Silveira (Pitman, So.).
138 POUNDS: This weight class equals 120 with seven returning state medalists but all should be chasing Jaden Abas (Rancho Bernardo, Jr.). Abas is ranked as high as #3 in national polls and has swept through the season, his only blemish a runner-up finish at the Walsh Ironman. He has remained undefeated against CA competition, with first place medals at Sierra Nevada, Doc Buchanan, and Five Counties. After finishing 2nd and 3rd during his first two state appearances, anything but gold will be a disappointment for the supremely talented Abas. Three-time Sac-Joaquin champion Lawrence Saenz (Vacaville, Sr.) will be making his fourth trip to the state meet and the three-time Cadet and Junior All-American is in fine form, with only a single loss this season (to the top-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds). The Fresno State recruit should be in contention for a finals spot alongside Matt Olguin (Buchanan, Jr.), a three-time Central champion who won the state title two years ago at 106 pounds. Olguin also finished 3rd in state last year at 113 pounds and has adjusted incredibly well to a four-weight-class jump. During the past two weekends, he has a pair of wins against Dawson Sihavong (Bullard, Jr.), a returning state medalist who was also a Cadet National folkstyle champion. Rounding out the top 10 is Southern champion and two-time state qualifier Sonny Santiago (St. John Bosco, So.), who beat Olguin en route to a runner-up finish at Doc Buchanan, three-time Northern champion and state medalist Dalton Lakmann (Foothill, Sr.), who beat state medalist Enrique Landeros (Orland, Sr.) in a battle of two-time section champs seeking a third title, two-time state qualifier Luis Ramos (Selma, Sr.), three-time Sac-Joaquin finalist and two-time state medalist Ricky Torres (Oakdale, Jr.), and two-time state qualifier Ryley Boutain (Benicia, Sr.), who was a match away from placing at state last year. Also watch out for Southern runner-up and three-time state qualifier Gabriel Cortez (Northview, Jr.), Luka Wick (San Marino, Fr.), who has two wins in five matches against aforementioned Santiago, Jonathan Orozco (Oak Hills, Jr.) and an experienced group of three-time state qualifiers in Michael Mello (Oak Ridge, Sr.), Central Coast champion Dan Vizcarra (Gilroy, Jr.), Rocky Beckett (Clovis North, Jr.) and Joe Romero (Lemoore, Sr.).
145 POUNDS: Five returning state medalists – including a state finalist – highlight this highly competitive weight class. Michigan State recruit and three-time North Coast champion Peyton Omania (De La Salle, Sr.) is seeking an individual title after earning two state medals the previous years. The four-time Cadet and Junior All-American should see some serious challenges from two-time state medalist and NHSCA All-American Tony Mendoza (Selma, Sr.), as well as returning state finalist and two-time Cadet and Junior All-American Bernie Truax (Rancho Buena Vista, Sr.). Truax has signed to continue his wrestling career at Cal Poly SLO, where he’ll be joined by fellow signee and Sac-Joaquin champion Jake Ryan (Oakdale, Sr.). Ryan has split matches with Omania this season. Also challenging for a top spot is returning state medalist and six-time Cadet and Junior All-American Izzak Olejnik (Bakersfield, Sr.), four-time state qualifier and Central runner-up Chris Gaxiola (Buchanan, Sr.), San Diego is also represented well with two more talented medal hopefuls in runner-up Josh Tolentino (Poway, Sr.) and sophomore standout Tyler Badgett (Rancho Bernardo, So.). Other medal contenders include Southern champion Adrian Salgado (ML King, Sr.) and returning state medalist Troy Madrigal (Servite, Sr.). Keep any eye out for top freshman Maxwell Wilner (Fountain Valley, Fr.), Steve Cardenas (Sultana, Sr.), Noah Cortez (Dinuba, So.), and Jackson Redhair (Oak Ridge, Sr.).
152 POUNDS: As unpredictable a weight as any this year, 152 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: sophomore standout Dominic Mata (Poway, So.) is #1 going in and aims to make it to the top of the podium this weekend. A returning state medalist, NHSCA All-America, and with five tournament titles to his credit this season, two-time San Diego champion Mata will be challenged by Southern champion and two-time Cadet Freestyle All-American Trey Munoz (Trabuco Hills, Jr.), the son of former NCAA Champion and two-time state champion Mark Munoz. Joining Munoz from the Southern Section are two strong medal contenders in returning state medalist Troy Mantanona (Palm Desert, Jr.) and Southern runner-up Jared Williams (Edison, Sr). Keep an eye on two-time Central Coast Champion John Fox (Gilroy, Jr.) and CCS runner-up Daniel Woo (Pioneer, Sr.). Each will be in the mix to contend for spot on the stand this weekend. Also contending for a spot in the finals is two-time Central champion and three-time Cadet All-American Jace Luchau (Selma, Jr.) and three-time state qualifier Beau Bradley (Monache, Sr.), who was a match shy of placing in state last season. Other medal hopefuls include Sac-Joaquin champion and Cadet All-American JT Stinson (Del Oro, So.), three-time state qualifier Tristan Zamilpa (Buchanan, Sr.), and San Diego runner-up Jayden Smith (Brawley, Jr.).
160 POUNDS: The odds-on favorites to reach the championship finals are two well-seasoned state competitors. They include Southern champion Joshua Kim (Santiago, Sr.) and Sac-Joaquin champion Noah Blake (Del Oro, Jr.). The Harvard-bound Kim is a returning state finalist, two-time state medalist, and five-time Cadet and Junior All-American. He has claimed several tournament titles this season, along with a 6th place finish at Walsh Ironman and a runner-up finish at the preseason Super 32 Challenge. Blake has an equally impressive resume with two state medals (4th and 7th) to his credit. At Doc Buchanan, he beat Central champion Joe Romero (Buchanan, Sr.), and both should contend for a spot in the finals. NHSCA All-American Romero as a finalist at the weight in 2017 and will be vying for his third state medal. The Southern Section is represented well with two other medal hopefuls in returning state qualifier and Five Counties champion Mike Goldfeder (The Buckley School, Sr.) and runner-up Nathan Vargas (Sultana, Sr.). The Central Coast Section features champion and returning state medalist Joseph Barnes (Gilroy, Jr.), a three-time Central Coast champion and NHSCA national champion. Also keep an eye on Stanford-bound Alex Escudero (Los Gatos, Sr.), who has earned Cadet All-American status. Other contenders for the podium include San Diego champion Calvin Naraghi (Poway, Sr.), three-time state qualifier and two-time NHSCA All-American Oscar Diaz (Selma, Sr.), and North Coast champion Ankhaa Enkhmandakh (De La Salle, Jr.), a Cadet All-American in Greco-Roman last summer. Keep an eye on a strong group from the Central section including finalist Albert Urias (Ridgeview, Sr.), Jarad Priest (Bakersfield, Jr.), and a trio of two-time state qualifiers in Max Aguirre (Frontier, Jr.), Arturo Rivas (Firebaugh, Sr.), and Daniel Long (Dinuba, Jr.).
170 POUNDS: Returning state medalist and two-time NHSCA All-American Christian Rodriguez (Selma, Jr.) will be the favorite at the starting blocks. Winning the tough Central Section this year, the Fresno State-bound Rodriguez is joined by three other strong medal contenders from the Central Valley – the top 4 seeds all hail from the area. They include two-time state qualifier and NHSCA All-American Mark Cardwell (Monache, Sr.), Trent Tracy (Frontier, Jr.), a two-time state qualifier with four tournament titles this year, as well as four-time state qualifier Dylan Miracle (Madera South, Sr.). The Southern Section is well-represented with a strong contingent of medal contenders. They include champion and two-time state qualifier Issaya Finley (Righetti, Sr.), runner-up Cole Pruitt (Alta Loma, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Mike Viramontes (Hesperia, Sr.), and sophomore standout Nathan Haas (St. John Bosco, So.). Sac-Joaquin champion Gabe Martinez (Oakdale, Jr.) will look to improve upon a strong showing at last year’s state meet, where he feel just a match short of the medal rounds. Other medal contenders include San Diego champion Jacob Mendoza (Poway, Sr.), Hunter Gonzalez (Rocklin, Sr.), Matt Yang (Bella Vista, Sr.), and Northern champion Russell Rucklos (Foothill, Sr.), all making return trips to state. Jadon Martin (Buchanan, So.), Diego Carrillo (Etiwanda, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Jonovan Smith (Birmingham, Jr.), and North Coast champion Hussien Abushi (Arroyo, Jr.) should contend as well.
182 POUNDS: Returning state champion and two-time finalist Anthony Montalvo (Buchanan, Sr.) is the clear-cut favorite to repeat this weekend. Montalvo has been consistent throughout the season with a lone loss coming in the finals of Reno TOC to an out-of-state competitor. He has signed with Oklahoma State and will take his talents to the Big 12 field next fall. Attempting to deny Montalvo from a second state title is San Diego champion Nathan Tausch (Poway, Sr.). The Cal Poly SLO-bound Tausch will enter the state tournament as the No. 2 ranked wrestler with high hopes of claiming an individual title of his own. Three Southern Section wrestlers ready to engrave their names in the record books are champion Guillermo Escobedo (Bishop Amat, So.), runner-up and two-time Cadet All-American Ryan Cosio (Temecula Valley, Jr.), and bronze medalist and two-time NHSCA All-American Gerardo Hernandez (Capistrano Valley, Sr.). Last season, all three missed the medal rounds by a single match. Three-time Central Coast champion Matthew Martinez (Alvarez, Sr.) will be more than ready to stand on the medal podium, as well as Sac-Joaquin champion Breck Jeffus (Turlock, Sr.). Others to watch are three-time state qualifier Kyle Richards (Folsom, Jr.), Northern champion and three-time state qualifier Quinn Simard (Shasta, Sr.), two-time Los Angeles champion Carlos Gomez (Birmingham, Sr.), and two-time North Coast champion Jack Kilner (Granada, Jr.). Keep an eye on Robert Maiden (Stockdale, Sr.) who will be making his fourth trip to the state tournament, as well as Central runner-up David Vardanyan (Bullard, Sr.) and San Diego runner-up Colin Murphy (Rancho Bernardo, Sr.).
195 POUNDS: Stanford commit Colbey Harlan (Oakdale, Sr.) will be in the hunt of his first state championship after placing second the previous season. He is a Flo Nationals All-American and has been untouched by the rest of the competition this season, claiming titles at Reno TOC, Doc Buchanan, and Temecula Valley, among many others. Two returning state medalists that are 1-1 on the season and will probably compete one more time for the opportunity to advance to the state finals are two-time Central Coast champion Antonio Andrade (Gilroy, Sr.) and two-time NHSCA Champion Ryan Reyes (Clovis West, Jr.). Both athletes have been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition. Stakes are high as Andrade is a returning state finalist while Reyes finished 3rd at the weight last season. Three-time Los Angeles champion Hamzah Al-Saudi (Palisades, Sr.) will attempt to become his school’s first state medalist this season after competing in this event the past two years. Along with Reyes, the Central Section has two strong medal contenders in three-time state qualifier Jacob Good (Clovis, Jr.) and Zach Poore (Buchanan, Sr.). Two-time North Coast champion Adrian Chavez (Liberty, Jr.) was a round shy of advancing to the podium last year and could do it this week. Others to watch include San Diego champion Kalani Sorensen (San Marcos, Sr.) two-time state qualifier A.J. Bicocca (Oak Ridge, Sr.), who finished second in his section behind Harlan, as well first-time state competitors in Southern champion Andy Voong (Arroyo, Sr.) and runner-up Jake Jakubec (Exeter, Sr.).
220 POUNDS: Undefeated heading into the final weekend of the season, Victor Jaquez (Bellarmine Prep, Jr.) has a great opportunity to become the first-ever state champion for Bellarmine. Only a junior, he has garnered All-American honors at Fargo and NHSCA tournaments. Returning state medalist and Central champion Trevor Ervin (Buchanan, Sr.) will enter the state tournament as the No. 2 ranked wrestler and will be making his fourth appearance at the state tournament. The Air Force-bound Ervin – who is trying to become the third consecutive Buchanan wrestler to win the weight class, after Zach Levatino (2016) and Cade Belshay (2017) – will be joined by Sac-Joaquin Champion Isaiah Perez (Pitman, Sr.), who is back from an injury that kept him on the sidelines for a portion of the season. The Fresno State recruit is a Super 32 Challenge and state place winner – and has advanced to the state tournament in four different occasions at 113, 138, 170, and now 220 pounds. The Southern Section is well represented here with four grapplers who could be on the podium on Saturday. They include champion Brayden Ray (Santiago, Sr.), returning state medalist and three-time state qualifier Joey Daniel (Santa Ana, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Erich Osteen (Chaminade, Jr.), and four-time state qualifier David Aranda (St. John Bosco, Sr.). Four-time Northern champion Tony Rogers (Chester, Sr.) will be in contention to gain his first state medal after finishing in the round of 12 the previous two years. Others to watch include San Diego champion Dane Martinez (Brawley, Sr.), two-time state qualifier Javier Espinoza (Poway, Sr.), Central runner-up Justin Darter (Bakersfield, Fr.), and three-time state qualifier Jose Reyes (San Fernando, Sr.).
285 POUNDS: In the land of the heavyweights, there’s Seth Nevills (Clovis, Sr.) and then the rest of the field! Nevills is scheduled this weekend to become only the third wrestler in the boy’s division to win his fourth consecutive state championship – joining an incredibly exclusive duo of four-timers in Darrell Vasquez (Bakersfield, 2002) and former teammate Justin Mejia (Clovis, 2017). He is also looking to win an unprecedented ninth overall state title for the Nevills clan, following titles by older brothers Zach, Nick, and AJ. Keep in mind the Penn State-bound Nevills has never lost to a CA competitor and it’ll require a truly seismic upset of historical proportions for any wrestler to top Nevills this weekend, let alone survive a full six minutes against him. A phenomenal wrestler on his feet, Nevills could go down as one of the best upper weight wrestlers in our state’s history. Close behind and a strong contender to reach the finals is returning state medalist and two-time Cadet All-American Jake Levengood (Vacaville, Sr.), who is undefeated against CA competition this year. The Southern Section has a trio of excellent wrestlers that will be more than ready to challenge for the medal stand. They include champion Tony DaCosta (Torrance, Sr.), runner-up Josh Tarango (Canyon, Sr.) who is making his state debut, and two-time state qualifier Randy Gonzalez Jr. (Lakewood). Nicholas Villarreal (Gilroy, So) is a two-time Central Coast champion and looks ready to make a run at the title after coming up short last season. As the weight class is often quite unpredictable, any number of different wrestlers can find themselves on the medal podium on Saturday night. Central Coast runner-up and two-time state qualifier Anthony Gomez (Christopher, Sr.) looks ready for a deep run, as well as Central runner-up Xavier Moran (Selma, Sr.), who’s also making his second trip to state. Keep an eye on San Diego champion Andrew Johnson (Poway, So.), Mike Jeffus (Turlock, Jr.), and Daniel Garcia (Hesperia, Sr.).