Israel Saavedra became the first Modesto High wrestler to win a state championship last March in Bakersfield.
So far, his success has not made him overconfident. It seems to have motivated him.
Saavedra is ranked No. 1 in the Sac-Joaquin Section in the 132-pound class (he won at 113 in March). His third at Flo-Nationals last year certified his 48-1 record as a freshman, during which he became only the 11th first-year wrestler to take home a CIF state title.
This season, he combines with brother Emilio Saavedra – a two-time state medalist – to ignite the Panthers. Emilio, a senior who will continue his career at national power Old Dominion, is the top-ranked wrestler in the section at 138.
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“This could be a great year. We have a pretty exciting room,” said first-year Modesto coach Angel Saavedra, father of Israel and Emilio. “We have the makings of a very good team.”
That Modesto team joins 15 others Saturday at the Modesto Junior College Invitational, a high school competition at MJC Gym. Action begins at 10 a.m., with the title matches expected to start around 4 p.m.
Others to watch at MJC are Enochs junior McCoy Kent, a state qualifier last season who’s ranked first at 145, and Beyer pair Josh Peterson (152) and Kenny Severe (220). Both won their weight classes earlier this month at the 48th Ceres Invitational.
Stanislaus District wrestlers accelerate the pace this weekend with action in several tournaments. Twenty-two teams, including Oakdale’s perennially strong lineup, travel to Los Banos on Saturday for the Morning Star Invitational.
Steve Strange, formerly of Central Catholic, succeeds Brian Stevens as Oakdale coach and has inherited a potent lineup. The Mustangs edged Sutter for the team title at the 38th James Riddle last weekend in Oakdale. Logan Eaton (113) and freshman Abel Garcia (160) both captured weight-class titles, while teammates and 2013 state qualifiers Nico Colunga and Trevor Williams lost in title matches.
Colunga, eighth in the state last March, is top-ranked in the section at 126. Los Banos coach Josh Adams anticipates a loaded Morning Star bracket at 120, a group which could include Colunga, Los Banos’ talented Tyler Felix, Bellarmine freshman Isaiah Palomino, Golden Valley freshman Brady Mello, Lathrop’s Alex Garcia and Central Valley’s Michael Mansoor.
Turlock, the defending Central California Conference champion, will be represented at both the Morning Star and the Zinkin Classic at Buchanan High in Clovis. It will be the second consecutive trip to Clovis for some of the Turlock wrestlers after last weekend’s Clovis West Shootout.
The Bulldogs’ Albino Orozco, who placed third at 171s last week at the Shootout, goes to the Zinkin.
Also noteworthy is Bret Harte senior Justin Barnes, a state qualifier at 152 last season. Barnes, No. 1 in the section so far at 170, won the 170s at the Riddle and was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler in the upper weight classes. He also dominated at the Provart tournament in Angels Camp.