When the curtain came down on last weekend's CIF State Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, it closed the book on one of the Stanislaus District's best senior classes.
We saw Oakdale High senior Rudi Burtschi win his second consecutive state championship and Central Catholic senior Louis Bland win his third state title in four years.
But those were just two highlights that have been provided by this year's senior class.
Here are some highlights of Bland and Burtschi, and the rest:
Burtschi didn't wrestle his freshman year, then placed fifth at 171 pounds as a sophomore.
He became a real force in his junior year. Late in the season, he won 20 matches in a row via pin -- all the way to the state semifinals. He closed out his first state title with an 8-5 victory over John Hall of Palo Alto. Last weekend, he won his second state title with an 8-6 victory over Coalinga's Josh Boger in a clash of undefeated wrestlers.
Bland won state titles as a freshman and sophomore, and only a loss to Ponderosa's Justin Danz last year kept him from becoming California's second four-time state champion. Instead, he's the state's fifth four-time finalist.
And, for the first time, Bland wasn't booed when he left the championship mat. I don't know if it was Bland's flexing his muscles after winning as a freshman and sophomore, or if it's because he's made no secret of the fact he's choosing football over wrestling as a college career, but he hasn't been particularly liked in Bakersfield. That changed when he received a nice ovation following his third title.
"They didn't boo me this time," Bland said. "I thought that was pretty nice."
Oakdale's Trevor Machado-Ching was knocked out during Friday's consolation rounds. But the four-time state qualifier won a state title as a freshman, giving this senior class six state titles, and placed fourth as a sophomore.
Central Catholic's Steven Vasquez put together a strong senior season, advancing to the 160-pound final. He ran into Las Lomas' Jason Welch, ranked No. 1 in the nation at that weight and undefeated since his sophomore year. Vasquez took down Welch late in the match but still fell to the three-time state champion.
Pitman's Vincent Perez placed fifth at 103 pounds, earning his second consecutive state medal (he was eighth last year). He's the only wrestler in school history to win a state medal.
Central Catholic's Dominic Galas nearly completed an undefeated season. The heavyweight lost in the final, 2-1, to Del Norte's Roger McCovey on a stalling call. Galas took the time to talk to reporters almost immediately after his match. While the look on his face showed he was crushed, he was still composed and answered every question.
Six state titles. Countless medals. So many unforgettable moments. This senior class of wrestlers is one of the strongest the district has seen in some time.
MATT Thissen has resigned as the varsity girls basketball coach at Golden Valley. Thissen, the school's original girls basketball coach, compiled a 246-158 record in 14 seasons. His teams made the playoffs 11 times, winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in 2000. Thissen was named The Bee's girls basketball coach of the year in 2000 as well.
Thissen will remain the school's volleyball coach and has joined the baseball program as a varsity assistant.
His teams only had two losing seasons while taking four Central California Conference crowns. Thissen coached two Modesto Bee district players of the year in Nina Roberts (1998) and Kim Spinardi (2006).
EIGHT meet records fell at Saturday's fourth annual Downey Swimming Invitational, held at Johansen High.
The record-breakers on the girls' side include: Downey senior Karlee Bispo (200 free, 100 butterfly and 100 free) and Sierra's Kara Hall (100 breast).
For the boys: Downey's R.J. Barton (200 free and 100 free), Downey's Tim Richard (200 IM) and Davis' Michael Smith (50 fly).
THE Manteca boys tennis team is off to a 10-1 start, bolstered by a 6-0 performance at the California High School Tennis Classic in Clovis. The Buffaloes won the Division III bracket, taking victories over Golden Valley, Modesto, West, Madera and Pitman.
"We defeated six strong programs," Manteca coach Frank Fontana said. "We're hoping to continue this strong start."
Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.