BAKERSFIELD — The referee raised the hand of Israel Saavedra, and the Modesto High freshman couldn't believe it.
The only time he led Lemoore senior Sean Williams was 31 seconds into overtime, when it ended. Saavedra's only takedown closed it.
"Best feeling in the world," Saavedra said.
The 113-pound title match of the CIF State Wrestling Championships was packed with strategy, nerves and, ultimately, a fusion of guile and guts by Saavedra.
How he scored a 5-3 victory for the state title Saturday night requires some explaining.
Trailing and desperate, Saavedra (48-1) drew a stalling penalty on Williams with 3 seconds left in regulation when he shot while the Lemoore senior was off the mat. That single point tied it 3-3 and forced the overtime.
Then came more magic. Williams (44-7) grabbed Saavedra's leg, but all that did is launch the Modesto teenager's title-clinching takedown.
Within an eye-blink, Saavedra spun from behind and wrapped his arm around Williams' back and beneath his chest.
"I knew I would come out and do it," Saavedra said. "I couldn't let him beat me."
Saavedra became the first Stanislaus District freshman to win a state title since Central Catholic's Louis Bland and Trevor Machado Ching of Oakdale in 2005. He's also the first from the district to take home the big prize since Central Catholic's David Ferry (135) in 2010.
While the title matches continued at Rabobank Arena, members of the Saavedra family raced with joy through the largely empty concourse. Modesto junior Emilio Saavedra, a two-time medalist here, jumped into his younger brother's arms.
"I was so happy I almost lost my voice," Emilio said. "I had so much confidence in him. He works so hard."
Most observers figured the bout to be close, but Williams marched in with major momentum. He brought the crowd to its feet in the semifinals earlier Saturday by beating St. John Bosco sophomore Zahid Valencia, the nation's top-ranked wrestler in his weight.
While Williams rallied to victory in the semis, Saavedra working on the adjacent mat while few noticed patiently motored past Roy Galvan of La Quinta 6-1.
Again, Saavedra saved his best stuff for when it counted. He started cautiously against Williams and trailed 1-0 and, later, 3-1.
But Saavedra toiled hard for escape points. The crowd booed when the referee didn't grant Saavedra a takedown during the second period. Williams also was warned for stalling, which proved critical later.
The Modestan was heartened by two factors: 1. His growing confidence. 2. His opponents' fatigue.
"He (Williams) was really strong. I tried to be cautious in what I did," Saavedra said. "I knew he was tired in the overtime. I felt it."
Some Modesto karma in the house may have helped. The opening ceremonies included an acknowledgment of the late Dan Gonsalves, the city high school wrestling pioneer who died a week ago.
All told, six Stanislaus District wrestlers earned medals (top eight) out of 37 state qualifiers.
Central Catholic's Ray Lomas (160) and Ripon's Trevor Smith (195) capped their respective careers with third-place finishes filled with both the sweet and the bittersweet.
Lomas, fifth here in 2012, was roadblocked 14-2 in the semifinals by Lemoore's Isaiah Martinez, the eventual champion who's ranked No. 2 in the nation.
What makes Lomas special, however, is how he's programmed to deal with setbacks. He didn't personally escort the Central Catholic football team to a state title, topped off by a tour de force in wrestling, by just tossing his skill level onto the mat.
Lomas responded to the lopsided loss with two workmanlike wins, the latter a 6-0 verdict over Bradley Christensen of Chaparral for third.
"I knew how good he (Martinez) was. It didn't hurt me to give up the points," Lomas said. "My senior year is amazing. Not many people have had a senior year like I have."
Smith (42-4), a state semifinalist for two straight years, dealt with a different kind of disappointment. He was sobered in the semis 2-1 by Elk Grove's Scott Votino, who Smith dispatched 5-0 the week before at Masters.
Votino notched a takedown late in the first period and then opted for defense. Warned once for stalling, he staved off challenge after challenge from Smith.
Last year, Smith dropped all his matches the second day and settled for sixth. This time, he gathered himself and climbed to third. Ice bags decorated most of his joints after his closing 2-0 win over Nick Johnson of Murrieta Valley.
"After last year, I pretty much figured that I couldn't do the same thing again," Smith said. "I made it a purpose not to keep the losses going."
Collecting a seventh at 160 was Calaveras senior Justin Brown, a three-time state qualifier. Eighths were notched by promising sophomores Nico Colunga of Oakdale (106) and Isaac Bertalotto of Turlock (132).
Oakdale senior Ronnie Stevens (120) lost in Saturday's early win-it-to-stay-in-it-round, one win shy of a medal. Mark Taijeron (132), the Merced junior who marched to a section Masters title last week, went 3-2.
Ultimately, the night belonged to Saavedra and a belief in victory that extended to the last possible second.
Modesto High freshman Israel Saavedra won six matches on his way to capturing the CIF state wrestling title in the 113-pound division. Here's a recap:
Pinned Luis Ortiz, Magnolia, 3:15
Defeated Sergio Mendez, San Fernando, 9-1
Defeated Khristian Olivas, Clovis, 4-1
Defeated Roy Galvan, La Quinta, 8-3
Semifinal: Defeated Isaiah Hokit, Wasco, 6-1
Championship: defeated Sean Williams, Lemoore, 5-3 (OT)