Keep an eye on Selma’s Richard Figueroa. Not only is Figueroa the runaway favorite for the men’s high school wrestler Freshman of the Year, but he could be the front-runner to become the next four-timer in California, especially if he keeps his winning ways. Per InterMat, Figueroa was rated No. 7 in the freshman class.
However, if he keeps up his torrid pace, he’s going to go down in California as one of the greatest lower weight wrestlers to compete in our sport. With the postseason near us, here at The California Wrestler, we decided to write about the top 10 freshmen. who are dominating the opposition and could punch a ticket to the CIF state tournament in March.
Brayden Abell (Oakdale), Gabriel Schumm (Citrus Hill), Wayne Joint (Lemoore, CS), Cade Lucio (Bakersfield, CS), Victor Jacinto (Gilroy, CC), George Ruiz (Buchanan, CS), Tyler Sepulveda (Selma, CS), Nathan Aguilar (Gilroy, CC), Jose Flores (Monache, CS), Javen Jovero (Rancho Bernardo, SD), and Dylan Zotea (Fountain Valley, SS).
10. CAEL VALENCIA (St. John Bosco, SS), 132 lbs
Cael might not have the same accolades as his elder brothers (Anthony and Zahid) had when they entered high school. However, this season, Cael has proven that could be a potential state qualifier and make some noise. He has been consistent for the coaching staff at St. John Bosco by placing in most tournaments they have attended, and he is 3-0 on the season against 2017 Southern Section Masters Meet Champion Aaron Diaz of Canyon Springs.
9. MAXWELL WILNER (Fountain Valley, SS), 145 lbs
Maxwell comes from great stock as his older sibling (Morris) was a two-time state qualifier and a medalist in 2016 as a senior. He has been one of the leaders of Fountain Valley High as he helped them win another Sunset league title two weeks ago over rival Edison High. Three of his losses this season have been to Sonny Santiago (St. John Bosco), Adrian Salgado (ML King), and Tyler Badgett (Rancho Bernardo), all whom are ranked in the state and could potentially become CIF state medalists.
8. ALEX RAMIREZ (Rowland, SS), 106 lbs
Ramirez has been one of the top youth wrestlers in the past few years not just in California but the country. He has been competing exceptionally well at 113-pounds but has had his ups and downs like most freshman. However, now that he is down to 106s we can undoubtedly say that we could be watching him compete at the state tournament and advance to the podium in March. This March he will try and surpass his father (Camilo) accomplishments as (Camilo) was third at the CIF state tournament in 1998.
7. JAYDEN GOMEZ (Gilroy, CC), 106 lbs
Tough incoming freshmen for the Hawks is the reason that Gilroy is so competitive in the state every passing year. This season, one of their top freshmen is Jayden Gomez. Gomez has been a delight watching this season as he doesn’t wrestle like a typical freshman. He is currently ranked No. 7 in the state with four tournament titles under his belt. Last time I saw him, he got injured at the Mid-Cals tournament and placed sixth. If healthy, we could eventually see him win a Central Coast title and make a run at the state podium.
6. LUKA WICK (San Marino, SS), 138 lbs
If one is familiar with college wrestling, we might have noticed that the surname Wick sounds familiar. You see, Luka’s elder brother (Evan) is currently ranked No. 6 in the country as a freshman and could eventually garner All-American honors this season. As for Luka, he should follow his elder brother steps and compete for a CIF state title this year. His lone two losses in California this year have been to Sonny Santiago of St. John Bosco, who he is 1-2 against him. Wick is ranked No. 7 in the state and one of the favorites to win a Southern Section title.
5. CARLOS NEGRETE (Clovis North, CS), 106 lbs
It is a bit comical to see how a wrestler as Negrete who placed at the always tough Walsh Jesuit Ironman tournament not even favorite to win a state title. That says a lot about how difficult it is to win a state title in California. In most other states in the country, Negrete would’ve been the favorite to win not just this year, but in the coming years as well. With this being said, Negrete has been stable for Clovis North and should challenge for an individual state title in March.
4. HENRY PORTER (Oakdale, SJ), 120 lbs
I have been a fan of Porter before he started wrestling in high school. Now that he is competing for Oakdale HS, I could certainly say that he will be a state champion one day. He has the right coaching, the skills, and the heart to achieve the task. I was most impressed with him at the Mid-Cals tournament as he defeated a potential four-time Oklahoma state champion (3-1) and loss a close 2-1 match to Jacob Allen of Poway, the No. 2 ranked wrestler in California. Any grappler wrestling Porter should tie his shoelaces real tight as he will have a battle with him.
3. RYAN FRANCO (Clovis North, CS) 126 lbs
Before entering high school, Franco had made a named for himself after placing at Folkstyle Nationals and Fargo. His accolades make him more than capable of challenging for an individual state title in March. Out of the five losses in his high school career, only three have been to grapplers that are ranked ahead of him according to The California Wrestler rankings. He has placed in all significant events Clovis North has competed, and he is a tactician when it comes to giving up points.
2. MAXIMO RENTERIA (Buchanan, CS), 113 lbs
Maximo Renteria is a coaching dream as he listens and does what the coaching staff tells him during heated matches. That’s the reason that he has three losses in the year with one being to California grappler Giano Petrucelli (Clovis) in the semifinals of the Doc Buchanan tournament. Nevertheless, he got the best of Petrucelli in the finals of the Mission San Jose tournament, and both are 1-1 on the season. Renteria has positioned himself in the right place, and we could be watching him win a Central Section title and challenge for an individual state championship to help Buchanan win a third team state title.
1. RICHARD FIGUEROA (Selma, CS), 106 lbs
A specialist in all three positions, Figueroa could be joining an elite club of state champions as freshmen’s this season. He has been one of the leaders for the Bears and has been unstoppable in the Golden State. If he does accomplish this rare feat, he will join Alex Cisneros, Gracie Figueroa, Alleida Martinez, and Jerzie Estrada as the only wrestlers from Selma to have achieved this task as freshmen.