The raised stage and harsh lights above the mat painted a new picture for Enochs High senior McCoy Kent.
But for Wyatt Wyckoff of Paradise, that electrified scene was not unlike walking into his own family room.
Acting like he had been there before – and he had, in two previous unsuccessful finals – Wyckoff dominated the final two rounds and grabbed his 138-pound state title with authority over Kent 11-3 Saturday night.
Kent (43-2) earned his place on finals night of the 43rd CIF State Wrestling Championships. He was ranked No. 2 in California and had won every tournament he entered. Until the big one at Rabobank Arena.
“He had a lot of experience on that mat,” Kent admitted. “He came out on top.”
During the morning semifinals, Kent scored in each round to hold off Khristian Olivas of Clovis 5-2 and reach the title match. The top-ranked Wyckoff (50-2) remembered a 9-6 loss to Kent when they were sophomores two years ago.
“A long time ago,” Kent said. “We’re a lot stronger now.”
Wyckoff, wide-shouldered and even more squat than Kent, parried every thrust. He consistently blocked Kent’s single-leg shot, often with his head, and cut off Kent’s attack.
“He was blocking the single and keeping his leg back,” Kent said. “He’s really strong and he’s got a good grip. That surprised me right off the bat.”
Kent escaped to lead 1-0 early in the second period before Wyckoff went to work. His takedown and near-fall swelled the lead to 6-3 with two minutes left.
Kent put together his only takedown to close the margin to 6-3 but Wyckoff quickly countered.
To his credit, Kent – down 8-3 and desperate as the final seconds ticked away – tried a desperation throw, wrestling’s version of a Hail Mary. He nearly got pinned as time expired, but it also showed Kent’s competitive zeal.
“He left everything out there on the mat,” Enochs coach Duane Brooks said. “When you get here, everyone knows what the other guy will do. He (Wyckoff) got the takedowns.”
A perfect script would have mandated a Kent victory as a bookend to the historic state team championship annexed last weekend by the Enochs girls. Micaela Kent, McCoy’s younger sister, contributed a third-place effort to that title.
Instead, family and friends gathered around Kent in the arena hallway. Tears of pride mixed with those of sadness, but there was no shame. The Enochs star, weary after back-to-back football and wrestling seasons, had asked for every last drop of energy.
“I’ll try to do it in college,” he said, in reference to his future address at Northern Illinois.
Kent was the only one of four Stanislaus District semifinalists to reach the title match. Modesto junior Israel Saavedra, gunning for a third state title, was stunned in the quarterfinals by De La Salle’s Nathan Cervantez via a second-round pin Friday night.
Saavedra responded by rolling through four consecutive matches in the 126-pound consolation bracket Saturday for third place, capping with a 5-0 decision over J.J. Figueroa of Bakersfield. That said, his only loss this season provided the state meet’s thunderclap moment.
“One mistake cost me,” said Saavedra, who won seven of eight matches here. “I’m not going to worry about that anymore, but I learned not to underestimate anyone. You always have to have a game plan.”
Also finishing third – and winning his third state medal – was Oakdale senior Nico Colunga. He’ll continue his career at North Dakota State.
Colunga, blanked in the semifinal 8-0 by Buchanan’s Durbin Lloren, anchored Oakdale’s seven-man team which placed eighth. Clovis set a scoring record and raced to its fifth consecutive team title.
“We’re graduating good young men who wrestled tough the last three weeks,” Oakdale coach Steve Strange said. “Nico went fourth, third, second and first at Masters and three medals at State. You don’t get many of those.”
The Mustangs will not rebuild from the bottom. Sophomore Abel Garcia (170) made an impact with his semifinals run and eventually placed fourth, and freshman Colbey Harlan (138) showed promise with two championship-bracket wins. Senior Logan Eaton (113) completed his prep career with a hard-earned seventh.
Pitman senior Angel Velasquez (132) dropped his semifinal match 5-2 to Julian Flores of San Marino. He rallied into the bid for third place but was beaten in the final seconds of triple overtime by Alexander Felix of Gilroy.
Davis’ Bobby Posadas (182) maxed out his first and only appearance at State. He was pinned in his first match by St. John Bosco’s Zahid Valencia, a bona fide state star, but recovered with four consecutive victories in consolation before he fell Saturday morning.