When it comes to wrestling, California is a commendable holdout.
The 45th CIF State Wrestling Championships, held Friday and Saturday at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena, remains a single-division tournament. That is, there is one bracket per weight class. Period.
Everyone from the largest urban schools to the smallest private schools – from Waterford lightweight Ivan Gomez to Clovis’ two-time state champion heavyweight Seth Nevills – duel on the mat.
Forty-five of the 50 states have switched to multidivision formats that add to the awards list but water down the competition. California prefers the old-school way, and it’s why the CIF meet is considered to be the nation’s toughest prep competition.
More than 27,000 wrestlers from 900-plus schools started the season. Only the top 560, spread through 14 weight classes, are left. After two grueling days, the top eight in each bracket will walk to the podium to receive one of the most coveted medals in California high school athletics.
The Stanislaus District has qualified 30 wrestlers to chase that dream this year.
Oakdale High School, which placed third in the team standings at last weekend’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters, is sending six wrestlers, led by four Masters champions: two-time champ Bronson Harmon (160 pounds), Colbey Harlan (182), two-time champion Abel Garcia (170) and Ricky Torres (132). Harlan is ranked No. 2 in the state.
Pitman, which sends a school-record five to the state meet, is topped by two-time Masters champion and four-time state qualifier Adam Velasquez (126).
Delhi senior Jesse Flores, the state’s No. 3-ranked heavyweight, will pursue his second consecutive state medal.
The performances by all section wrestlers will be closely watched. For the first time since 2001, no one from the section took home a state title last year.
Another issue this year is the seeding of the top 12 wrestlers in each bracket. Previously, various formulas were used but all focused on the separation of the top four.
“We’re trying to make it fair and equitable to every kid who comes here,” state meet director Alan Paradise said. “We’ll continue to refine it.”
Most observers were surprised by the change.
“I think it’s smart,” Turlock coach Mike Contreras said. “It’s always a good idea to separate the best.”
Wrestler of the Week – Enochs junior Rory Coscia (39-0) went 5-0 to claim the 116-pound title at the CIF State girls championships last weekend at Visalia. Coscia, who placed third and fourth in the state during her first two years, defeated James Logan senior Nguyet Tran 6-4 in overtime in arguably the most thrilling match of finals night. The Enochs star, who twice lost to Tran in the recent past – including the third-place match at state in 2016 – scored a takedown to tie with seconds left in regulation.
Notes – Pitman senior Joseph La Rosa (152) knows all about comebacks. He recovered from a major knee injury to compete this season. Then, at Masters, he won six straight matches in consolation – after a first-round loss – and placed fourth. ... Calaveras junior Victor Moore (220), a first-year wrestler, bounced back from a second-round loss and placed fourth. He pinned Folsom’s Kyle Richards, ranked 11th in the state, to reach the third-place match. ... Pacheco High celebrated Geralene Pomele and Anthony Velasquez. Pomele (143) became the school’s first state medalist with her fifth place at Visalia. Velasquez (132) is the school’s first boy to qualify for state. He placed fifth. ... Golden Valley senior Brady Mello (152) spent much of his childhood attending section Masters tournaments with his father, GV coach Chopper Mello. In his final try, Brady Mello qualified for state by finishing sixth and, of course, got a big hug from his dad. ... Sophomore Noah Mirelez (126) is the first Patterson wrestler in 20 years to advance to state. He was sixth.