BAKERSFIELD — Ripon High's Trevor Smith can tell Modesto's Israel Saavedra and Central Catholic's Ray Lomas how it feels to compete in the semifinals of the CIF State Wrestling Championship.
But in essence, the trio is on its own in this morning's pressurized semis at Rabobank Arena. Only Smith has been there before, and he slipped to sixth in 2012 after failing to win a match on Saturday.
As for Lomas, he recovered from a third-round loss last year to place fifth at 145. Which leaves Saavedra, all big eyes and scary-good freshman talent.
"This feels different than the other big (youth) tournaments I've been in," Saavedra said. "A little more vibe."
Smith, stronger and more varied in his attack, has positioned himself to forget last year's tough second day. His opponent in the 195-pound semifinals today is Elk Grove's Scott Votino, who Smith blanked 5-0 in last week's Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals.
More importantly, the Ripon star dominated Friday with two pins, a 9-0 shutout and in the quarterfinals an 11-2 rip over Gabriel Gonzalez of Washington Union. Smith grabbed Gonzalez's left leg late in the second period and didn't let go. A 1-0 deficit morphed into a take-charge performance.
"He lost a couple earlier in the year, but the important thing is what you do at the end," Ripon coach Glen White said. "Everything else doesn't matter."
Lomas (160), cautious but powerful in a 3-1 quarterfinal victory over Kyle Campiotti of Granada, already has passed one test by avoiding a first-day loss.
"I didn't want to give up any big moves," Lomas said. "It (the tournament) is crazy-hard. I just didn't want to fight back (in consolation)."
Saavedra (46-1), ranked No. 2 among 113-pounders in California, displayed his busy style in four impressive wins.
Late in the second round of the quarterfinal against Roy Galvan of La Quinta, Saavedra attacked his opponent's leg not unlike a cobra in a worse-than-normal mood.
Just like that, he upped the score to 5-0 and set the course for an 8-3 decision.
"I felt more comfortable after that (takedown)," he said.
Two other Stanislaus District stars Oakdale products Ronnie Stevens (120) and Nico Colunga (106) reached the semifinals but were defeated.
The attrition rate was predictable. The district qualified 37, but only 10 earned another day on the mat. The seven in the consolation bracket must win their first match today to extend their tournament:
Colunga, a sophomore, at 106.
Ronnie Stevens at 120.
Turlock sophomore Isaac Bertalotto at 132.
Masters champion Mark Taijeron of Merced at 132.
Argonaut sophomore Zack Velasquez at 152.
Three-time State qualifier Justin Brown of Calaveras at 160.
Bret Harte's Luke Brewer at 195.
Oakdale coach Brian Stevens enjoyed a father's special moment by seeing both his sons, Ronnie and sophomore Max Stevens (126) competing at State.
"It's actually not uncommon for them to be competing at the same time in tournaments," Brian said. "I just hope one of them finishes in time so I can watch the other."
Other snapshots featured Ceres senior Gabe Balderas, qualifying for his third trip to Bakersfield, waging a wild comeback in his first-round match against Jorge Carbajal of Bloomington. Balderas took a 15-14 lead with 22 seconds left, only to give it up seven seconds later 16-15.
Another was Hughson senior Andrew Patrick (145), who was helped up by Tyler Zimmer of Clovis West after his loss via pin. Patrick, his career ended, limped out of the arena.
Meanwhile, Smith, Lomas and Saavedra will finish no worse than sixth and take home medals (for finishing in the top eight).
Only now, they aim higher.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302.
State Wrestling Championships
WHEN: Ends todayWHERE: At Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena WHO: In the semifinals: Modesto's Israel Saavedra, Central Catholic's Ray Lomas, Oakdale's Trevor Smith.UPDATES: For updates throughout the tournament, follow Ron Agostini on Twitter @modbeesports and visit www.modbee.com/sports