STOCKTON — McCoy Kent spent part of his Friday with a cotton plug tucked into his nostril to save blood. He ended it, however, with a hearty clap of his hands.
The Enochs High sophomore deserved his feel-good moment. How else do you celebrate the making of a school history?
"Amazing," Kent summarized. "I will tell my kids."
All his offspring have to do, of course, is check the school recordbook someday. It will duly note that the first Enochs High wrestler to qualify for the CIF State Championship is one McCoy Kent.
The fast-improving sophomore earned his trip to Bakersfield the site of next week's state meet by winning all three matches Friday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship.
Win No. 3, an 8-5 decision over Jason Robbins of Escalon, extended Kent's season to the final week. He'll finish no worse than sixth at the Masters, regardless of today's results.
The top seven in each weight class advance to State, which means Kent can pursue a Masters title without stressing much about losses. In wrestling, that's called a handy safety net.
Kent pinned his first opponent, but he turned heads at Stockton Arena when he built an 8-3 lead during his second match against Mason Koshiyama of Folsom, one of the tournament's heavyweight teams. When Koshiyama challenged, Kent took him down one more time for an 8-5 win.
"After that win, I got a lot of confidence," said Kent, who qualified for Masters a year ago but injury-defaulted after one match. "I've won a lot of my matches this year in the third round. I trained hard this year."
Kent will be joined in the semifinals by fellow Modesto Metro Conference wrestlers Israel Saavedra of Modesto (113) and Latrell Benjamin of Gregori (152).
Both bring nifty backstories: Saavedra, a freshman, is the brother of two-time state medalist Emilio Saavedra (he missed weight at the MMCs). Benjamin, a senior, reaches State for the second time after not advancing in 2012.
"It inspired me to work harder," Benjamin said. "A lot of this is mental. Anyone can get beat and any match can be your last."
Masters Friday always opens with some pre-meet drama. This time, it came in the form of 17 scratches for everything from injuries to missed-weights. Eventually, 451 started the day on eight mats.
Reigning Masters champions Trevor Smith of Ripon (195) and Central Catholic's Ray Lomas (160) rolled smartly into the semifinals. So did seniors Gabe Balderas of Ceres (113) and Johnathon Costa of Escalon (170), both of whom qualified for State for the third time, and Andrew Patrick of Hughson (145).
Oakdale's potent team marched eight into the quarterfinals, but only three Nico Colunga (106), Ronnie Stevens (120) and Zach Fallentine (220) won all three matches.
Central Catholic senior Joey Abbate (138) will give Lomas some company in the semis after his hard-fought 7-4 decision over Brandon Claiborne of Oak Ridge.
Turlock squeezed Rafael Herrera (126) and Ricardo Garcia (220) through the first day. Herrera, a junior, pinned a trio, including Caleb Patrick of Argonaut in the first minute of the quarterfinals.
The novelty act was performed by brothers Tyler and Jimmy Felix of Los Banos, who will travel to Bakersfield together.
Ultimately, Day 1 was about two things: 1. Clinching a trip to State, or, if that wasn't do-able, 2. Surviving to today.
Some, like Gregori senior Dean Duivenvoorden (hampered by back spasms), made it harder on themselves by losing in the first round. They must slog through the consolation bracket. Duivenvoorden held on by winning three straight times.
Everything intensifies today. Titles and more state berths will be decided, and even the seventh-place matches the thankless win-or-go-home round will jangle nerve-endings.
"I know what that's about," Los Banos coach Josh Adams, a Bret Harte graduate. "I lost the fifth-place match (in 1996) when they took only the top five to State. It's a heartbreaking match."
Eventually, the house lights will be dimmed and the spotlight will shine on the 14 finals. Kent sits only two wins away from a Masters crown, though he's already accomplished plenty here.
"Now I make more history," he said.
Sac-JoaquinSection Masters WrestlingChampionships
At Stockton Arena
9 a.m. Consolation
10:15 a.m. Semis
1:45 p.m. 7th-place matches
3 p.m. 1st, 3rd and 5th-place matches
To stay up to date on today's results, follow Ron Agostini on Twitter @modbeesports