A knee injury kept Modesto Junior College wrestler Rolando Velasco off the mat last season.
He's determined not to let a lingering sinus infection prevent him from placing at the California Community College State Wrestling Championships today and Saturday in Fresno.
"This is the time, and I'm feeling a lot stronger," said Velasco, a 133-pounder. "I'm going to give it all I've got, aim for No. 1, and whatever happens, happens."
Velasco is one of six Pirates who qualified for state by finishing in the top six at last week's Northern California Regional Championships. He finished fifth but thought he could have placed in the top three.
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Velasco, who was on the cover of Wrestling USA magazine in November, finally started taking antibiotics this week for a nasal and lung infection that has hindered him the last month.
The sophomore made it to state in 2005 but didn't place. He wants to finish his MJC career on a better note.
"I should have done better (at NorCals)," Velasco said. "Both the guys I lost to, I had beat before."
Dropping matches against familiar opponents turned out to be the theme of the weekend for the Pirates. Ryan Sughrue (184) finished second, losing to Shasta's Derek Rottenberg for the first time in eight meetings this season.
Jordan Lefler (197) fell to Lassen's Shane Miller and Sierra's Mingo Grant, opponents he defeated more than once. Victor Carrazo (174) finished third, edged 3-1 by Mike Fucci of Sierra, whom Carrazo has beaten many times.
"We had a funny week in practice," Fisher said. "A lot of the guys were sick. I wasn't in the room all week because I had a staph infection, so I was home in bed. I'm glad we did as well as we did."
Buddy Shaw placed third in a "tough" 149-pound weight class and Austin Cronan fifth at 165.
Fischer said NorCals served as a wake-up call for Modesto. He won't be surprised if Carrazo, Lefler and Sughrue bounce back with top-three state finishes Saturday.
Lefler finished fifth at state in 2005. In a scheduling snafu last season, he realized too late that he didn't have enough units to wrestle. He stayed in shape by running for the MJC track team.
Lefler, too, has been sick recently, and suffered an anxiety attack during a match for the first time last month. He said he isn't worried about this weekend.
"I'm going for No. 1, always," Lefler said. "I'm the only one who's beaten the No. 1 guy. I've just got to go out hard. Last week, I felt like I didn't have the tempo. I wasn't wrestling hard enough. We only have one more week. We've got to go all-out."
Lefler is looking forward to seeing how Sughrue does. Sughrue finished fourth at a one-day Division I meet at Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 17, going 6-2.
"He has so much talent," Lefler said of his teammate. "He's pinned (Rottenberg) five times. He just needs to get his confidence up."
Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.