More than 25,000 wrestlers from 850 schools started the high school season four months ago.
Only 560 – the top 40 in each of the 14 weight classes – have survived the elimination process. Their reward is a trip to Bakersfield for the 43rd CIF State Boys Wrestling Championships, the dizzying two-day meet Friday and Saturday at Rabobank Arena.
Twenty-two Stanislaus District athletes have qualified, led by Modesto High junior and two-time state champion Israel Saavedra and Enochs senior McCoy Kent.
Saavedra (126), ranked second in the nation, is unbeaten. Kent (138), ranked eighth, has lost only once – to Saavedra.
Their goal is simple – to reach Saturday night’s title matches on the raised stage beneath the bright lights.
Oakdale High sends seven qualifiers, including two-time state medalist Nico Colunga, to Bakersfield. Colunga goes to the state meet for the fourth time.
“Only the top eight teams make the record books,” Oakdale coach Steve Strange said. “Our goal is to be one of those eight teams.”
Here is a bracket-by-bracket look at the meet:
106: Waterford sophomore Ivan Gomez draws bracket favorite Cade Olivas of St. John Bosco, one of the nation’s top freshman, for his first match. Randon Miranda of Quartz Hill will challenge, but Olivas beat him last week. Watch for two-time SJS champion Jordan Aquino and Benicia’s Christian Ramos.
113: Clovis sophomore Justin Mejia, the defending champion, already committed to Iowa before the season. He’s lost only once in his high school career, and two-time state qualifier Logan Eaton probably will see Mejia in the first round. Pitman freshman Isaiah Perez should run into Javier Alaniz of Clovis West. Three of the state’s top four come from Central Section.
120: Oakdale’s Colunga enjoys a manageable draw and could face Buchanan’s Durbin Lloren (his only loss is to Saavedra) in semifinals. Adam Velasquez of Pitman opens against Central Section runner-up and fellow sophomore Chris Deloza of Clovis North. The chalk says Lloren vs. Devan Turner of Dixon in finals, but six medalists from last year are back.
126: Saavedra of Modesto is halfway to his goal – to become only the second California wrestler to win four state titles. No. 2-ranked Russell Rohlfing of Sonora (Southern Section) and Saavedra could meet in semis. Eric Reyes of Yucaipa beat Rohlfing last week. Oakdale’s Trevor Williams is positioned to face Saavedra in quarters. Watch for drop-down Daxton Gordon of Brawley and J.J. Figueroa of Bakersfield.
132: Angel Velasquez of Pitman, fourth in the state in 2014, and brother Adam became eligible last month after transferring from Modesto. Jaden Enriquez of Mission Oak could be favored, though he’s third-seeded from the Central Section. Because Enriquez fell to third (he was No. 1 in the state), Velasquez could run into Central Section champion Greg Gaxiola of Buchanan in the quarters. Oakdale’s Max Stevens opens against the state’s No. 5-ranked Juan Flores of San Marino.
138: McCoy Kent of Enochs, third in the state last year, and two-time state finalist Wyatt Wyckoff of Paradise eye each other from opposite sides of the draw. Southern Section runner-up Evan Wick of San Marino may stand in Kent’s way. Wyckoff must deal with Southern Section champ Joshy Cortez of Temecula Valley. The draw is OK for Oakdale freshman Colbey Harlan.
145: Gilbert Valadez of Pitman faces sixth-ranked Conner Francis of Buchanan in the first round. The bracket has five returning medalists, including two-time state medalist Ralphy Tovar of Poway. SJS champion Brandon Claiborne of Oak Ridge and runner-up Reece Chew of Kimball could threaten.
152: Merced senior Romeo Medina, a 2014 SJS champion and runner-up last week, has a good chance to reach the third round if he wins his opener. Then he could face Justin Thomas of Santiago, one of the favorites. Unbeaten Zack Velasquez of Ponderosa and Thomas are potential finalists. More strong entries from the Central Section here.
160: No district qualifiers at 160. Defending champion Colt Doyle of Poway is unbeaten and favored. SJS champ Lorenzo De La Riva of Folsom has lost only to Velasquez, who dropped to 152s. On opposite side of draw from De La Riva is Ricky Padilla of Northview and freshman Anthony Montalvo of Buchanan. Watch for two-time CS champ Dominic Kincaid of Clovis.
170: Anthony Valencia of St. John Bosco (bound for Arizona State) vies for his third state title, and he opens against fellow senior Ayden Garcia of Calaveras. Oakdale sophomore Abel Garcia, the SJS champ, has a chance for some success.
182: District entries Frankie Trent of Oakdale and Bobby Posadas of Grace Davis find themselves in the same draw as potential finalists. Zahid Valencia, like brother Anthony, targets his third state title. Posadas faces him in first round, though Posadas rallied from an opening loss to fourth last week at SJS. Trent is slotted against potential second-round foe A.J. Nevills of Clovis, ranked No. 2 in the state.
195: If Buhach Colony senior Jay Johnson wins his opener, he likely gets Alec Gamboa of Madera. Four of the top five in this bracket come from the Central Section, another example why the SJS lost its No. 7 state bid to CS this year. Clovis North’s Austin Flores will continue at Stanford. Escalon senior A.J. Camarena draws a tough first-round opponent in Adam Prentice of Clovis.
220: Calaveras junior Shane Torre will be the underdog against Central Coast champ Noe Garcia of Gilroy. Unbeaten Liam Sorahan of Poway is the favorite. Also unbeaten is Clovis freshman Seth Nevills from one of the state’s famous wrestling families. Sal Ta’amu of Elk Grove hurt his seeding when he was pinned in 17 seconds last week by Pablo Miller of Del Oro in the SJS quarters.
285: Ripon junior Tristan Smith, if he wins his opener, could run into fourth-ranked Hexton Coronado of CS champ Clovis. There is no clear-cut favorite. Calaveras senior Jarred Kirk is in the same bracket as Selma’s Jose Alvarez, ranked No. 1 in the state. Calaveras sends three to state this year. SJS rivals Dominic Balmer of Woodcreek and Jake Minshew of Casa Roble also could contend.
43rd CIF Boys Wrestling Championships
▪ Friday and Saturday
▪ Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield
▪ 9 a.m. both days
▪ Semifinals Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
▪ Title matches at 7:15 p.m.
▪ All semifinal and medal matches streamed live on www.twccommunity.com
▪ Coverage: Ron Agostini will be Tweeting live results starting Friday morning. Follow him @modbeesports.