Photo Courtesy of John Sachs
One of the oldest and hardest hitting tournaments in the Golden State is scheduled to take place this Friday and Saturday at Fountain Valley High in Orange County, California. Over 60 schools will be competing for the coveted Five Counties team championship.
Sixth-ranked Selma High, as well as 10th-ranked Rancho Bernardo, will be in contention to win the team title. However, we can never count out such teams as Southern section powers Northview, Servite, Victor Valley, and Mayfair.
Returning Five Counties champions include Robert Garcia (Selma, 126), Tony Mendoza (Selma, 138), Jackson Serna (Northview, 285), Jaden Enriquez (Mission Oaks, 145) and Chasen Blair (Rancho Bernardo, 195). Enriquez and Blair were awarded the middle and the upper weight MVP honors after recording five falls in last year’s tournament.
Eddie Flores of Northview was a CIF state medalist last season that has recently dropped to the 106-pound weight class. Still undefeated on the season, Flores has won titles at the Carter Invitational, El Cajon, and the Peoria tournament, the toughest tournament in Arizona. His sudden drop to the 106-pound weight division should make him the front-runner to win an individual state championship in February.
Challenging Flores are two outstanding wrestlers that were successful last week at the Doc Buchanan tournament. They are Tristan Lujan of Selma and Noah Padilla of Victor Valley. Lujan’s losses at Doc Buchanan were to the third-ranked wrestler in the nation, 3-2, and number seven, 4-2. Lujan has a bright future ahead of him as he is only a freshman. Padilla is a senior that was a match away from advancing to the state tournament last season.
Keep an eye on Victor Atherton of Arroyo High who was a Southern Section Masters Meet qualifier last year. This season he has been successful at claiming individual titles at the Louie Madrigal Memorial and the Arroyo Classic.
Don’t sleep on Ernie Aguilera of Mayfair who is currently undefeated on the season with a 15-0 record. It’s not difficult to surmise that Aguilera’s daily training with Jose Alvarez has elevated his competitive status on the mat.
This is a wide-open weight class that anyone having a great weekend can win. Leading the way is Marcos Polanco of Servite High. Polanco was a state qualifier last season for the Friars that finished a match away from garnering All-State accolades. This will be his first tournament competing at 113s.
Right behind Polanco should be two-time CIF state qualifier Matteo Sanchez of Central. Sanchez finished eighth last year at 106. Jose Alvarez of Mayfair High opened some eyes last season, qualifying for the CIF State Championships. So far this season, he remains undefeated with championships earned at the Edison Beach Bash and the Mann Classic. Junior Zane Romney of Simi Valley High, was a match away from placing in the tournament last year. During the consolation rounds in 2016, he defeated Alvarez, 2-0. This season, Romney has won titles at the Newbury Park Invitational and the Louie Madrigal Memorial.
Due to the tough grapplers that Selma High produces year-after-year, Luis Rios was a backup to Robert Areyano but appears to have won the varsity spot at 113-pounds this season. Keep an eye on San Diego Masters Meet qualifier Jake Grigg of Rancho Bernardo. This is his first tournament of the season as he has been battling injuries.
This weight group is among the most competitive at Five Counties. In fact, several talented wrestlers will be hard pressed to make it to the medal round. Among the favorites to bring home a coveted Five Counties title is Westview’s Nick Capetillo. A 2016 Oregon state runner-up, he enters this season ranked number one in Oregon’s 6A rankings. Along with Capetillo, three other wrestlers will challenge for the title. Sidney Flores of Bishop Amat is up two weight classes after placing fifth last year. Currently ranked fifth by The California Wrestler, Flores was successful in placing at Doc Buchanan. Alex Nunez of Alta Loma is a two-time CIF state medalist and is more than ready to become a champion this week. Cleveland Belton of Temescal Canyon returns home after placing second in the Georgia state tournament last year. He defeated fab freshman Josh Medina of Servite, 3-1, in the third-place bout of the Sierra Nevada tournament.
Returning state qualifier Nate Yanez of Roosevelt will be in the mix and challenge for a place on the medal stand. He was successful last year at gathering All-American honors at USAW Post Season nationals. 2016 CIF San Diego Masters runner-up Kenji Beato of Mt. Carmel, has three tournament titles under his belt with his only loss coming in the finals of the La Costa Canyon tournament wrestling up a weight class.
A tough freshman that will be someone the fans might want to check out as he could surprise some people this week is Rancho Bernardo’s Jaden Le. This past weekend while competing in the Doc Buchanan tournament, he defeated 2016 CIF state medalist Wyatt Cornelison of Clovis, 6-0, and lost close matches to the runner-up, (8-6, and the eighth-place finisher, 4-3.
Other wrestlers that could work their way onto the podium include two-time CIF state qualifier Robert Areyano of Selma, Dominick Arellano of Northview, Southern Section Masters Meet qualifiers Sunny Luna of Victor Valley and Brian Hernandez of Trabuco Hills, as well as two-time San Diego Section Masters medalist Ethan Ramos of Olympian.
Looking at the entries in this weight class, two grapplers that stand out from the rest of the field are 2016 CIF state finalist Jaden Abas of Rancho Bernardo and two-time CIF state medalist Robert Garcia of Selma High. Abas is currently ranked #18 in the nation and finished third at the Doc Buchanan tournament, arguably the toughest in-season high school tournament in California. Fresno State-bound Robert Garcia of Selma High, will attempt to navigate his way to the top of the podium once again this year. Expect fireworks if these athletes do meet up in the finals.
Two-time Five Counties medalist Jeremy Trinh of Oxnard High will be a candidate to gain his first tournament championship of the season. Trinh is a two-time state qualifier and has already signed to compete for Fresno State in the future. Trey Munoz, son of former NCAA champion from Oklahoma State Mark Munoz, will put on the line his 18-0 record and attempt to win a Five Counties tournament for the first time.
Other Southern Section grapplers that should challenge for a title are 2016 state qualifier Nick Camacho of Paramount, Sierra Nevada medalist Darren Javier of Temescal Canyon, Jack Cheney of Chaminade, and Masters Meet qualifier Ricardo Solorio of Santa Ana. It is uncertain which wrestler Servite will send to the tournament at this weight class, but keep an eye on Teddy Okada and Daniel Magana. Both possess the capacity to do well in the tournament.
This weight class should be fun to watch with two returning finalists and three wrestlers that were a match away from placing in the tough Doc Buchanan tournament. Defending Oregon 6A state champion Joey Coste of Westview is up a weight class after placing second to Robert Garcia of Selma High last year. Gary Joint of Lemoore lost a tough, 2-1, match to Tony Mendoza of Selma last year in the tournament. A three-time state medalist, twice in Kansas and once in California, Joint has already committed to take his talent to Fresno State as well. Last month, Joint put together a strong performance at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman by placing sixth in a strong field.
Winding up a match shy of placing at Doc Buchanan were Tyler Badgett of Rancho Bernardo, Luis Ramos of Selma, and Tino Lopez of Alta Loma. Badgett is only a freshman and has placed in four different tournaments this season. Ramos placed fifth last year in the tournament in the 120-pound weight class and could do so again this week. Badgett owns a 2-0 record versus Ramos as he has defeated him 7-4 and 3-2. Lopez competed last season for San Marino High where he was a Southern Section Masters Meet qualifier.
Don’t sleep on Central’s Anthony Chavez. Competing in the 120-pound weight class last season, Chavez was successful in finishing in the top 12 at the state tournament.
Gabriel Cortez of Northview High was a state qualifier last season and has the potential to be a finalist this week. Other wrestlers that could challenge for a spot Saturday afternoon include three-time CIF San Diego medalist Jonas Ullsperger of Mater Dei, Ian Aguilar of Hillcrest, and CIF Northern Section medalist Robert Gonzales of Foothill.
The matches in this weight class, starting from the quarterfinals and on, should be barn burners with all the great talent. Among the favorites to bring home a coveted Five Counties title is Cal Poly-bound Zander Silva of Alta Loma. A two-time state medalist, Silva recently placed fourth at the rugged Doc Buchanan tournament. Preparing to defend his title is Selma’s Tony Mendoza. A 2016 state medalist, Tony will be aiming to win his second consecutive title as he was a champion in this event last year at 132s.
Returning two-time Nevada state medalist Nico Antuna of Centennial will be in the mix and challenge for a spot on the medal stand. Earlier this season, Antuna placed at the Sierra Nevada tournament in Nevada.
Dalton Lakmann of Foothill and Joe Romero of Lemoore competed against each other in the third-place bout at the Reno TOC, with Lakmann coming out victorious, 3-2. Lakmann was a CIF state qualifier last season and is coming off of defeating the fourth-ranked wrestler in California Lawrence Saenz of Vacaville, 8-4. Romero advanced to the 2015 CIF state tournament but was sidelined last season due to an injury.
Other medal hopefuls include state qualifier Ricky Marin of Northview, as well as Southern Section Masters Meet qualifiers Devin Daugherty of Cypress and Miguel Flores of Carter High.
The odds-on-favorite to win Five Counties for a third consecutive time is Jaden Enriquez of Mission Oaks High School. Enriquez will be taking his talent to Michigan State next year and enters the tournament as the top-ranked wrestler in California at 138. Enriquez will be aiming to win a CIF state championship this season after placing second in 2015.
Providing a challenge for Enriquez are two returning Five Counties medalist Charles Franchina of Rancho Bernardo and Karson Ayres of Fountain Valley. Franchina was fourth at last year’s CIF San Diego Section and has been solid, thus far, for the Broncos. Ayres missed the first part of the season but is back now more than ready to claim a Five Counties championship this week. He wound up in 10th place at last year’s Southern Section Masters Meet tournament.
A wrestler to follow in the tournament as he could open some eye this weekend is Khalil Howard of Mayfair. A two-time Southern Section Masters Meet qualifier, Howard was fifth in this weight class last year and he is currently undefeated on the season.
Greg Guzman of Lemoore High comes into the tournament ranked fifth in the state. He recently finished top 12 at Doc Buchanan where he lost close matches to the sixth and eighth place finishers. Keep an eye on Southern Section Masters Meet qualifier Troy Madrigal of Servite. Madrigal has placed in five different tournaments this season, including the Peoria Invitational, one of the toughest tournaments in the state of Arizona.
Rancho Bernardo’s Eric Salcido has elevated his wrestling skill set this season and he is competing with the goal to become a 2017 California state champion! Currently ranked seventh in the state by The California Wrestler, Salcido has been successful in gaining three tournament titles and placing in five.
A sophomore that should be on everyone’s radar is Jace Luchua of Selma High. A Central Section Masters qualifier last season, Luchau has been a solid wrestler for the Bears. Despite not placing at the Doc Buchanan Tournament, Luchua gave the fifth-place finisher in the tournament a tough match in the preliminary rounds, losing a hard-fought decision, 3-2.
Russell Rucklos of Foothill High is a wrestler expected to surprise many fans this week. He was a match away from advancing to the CIF state tournament last year. Two outstanding wrestlers that could be fighting for a spot on the podium on Saturday include Southern Section Masters Meet medalist Adam Garcia of Norte Vista and Adam Garcia of Paramount High.
2016 Flo Nationals All-American and the third-ranked wrestler in the state according to The California Wrestler, Aaron Olmos of Mater Dei will be one of the favorites in this weight category. An explosive and unorthodox wrestler, Olmos placed fourth at the Doc Buchanan tournament last week. A surprise finalist last year at 138-pounds, Selma’s Oscar Diaz will attempt to make it back to the finals and earn a title that slipped from his grip last season. He was successful last week in placing at the Doc Buchanan tournament.
Three grapplers that could challenge Olmos and Diaz for a Five Counties title include Sam Azar of Aliso Niguel, Augustin Garcia of Madera South, and Joey Sandoval of Porterville. A Southern Section Masters qualifier last year, Azar recently finished in the blood round at the Doc Buchanan tournament. Garcia garnered All-American honors at the 2016 USAW Post-Season Nationals and was a state qualifier last season. Coached by two-time Olympian (1988 and 1992) Tim Vanni, Sandoval was a state qualifier last season out of the tough Central Section.
Other wrestlers battling to be on the podium this Saturday include Southern Section Masters Meet qualifiers Jordan Bernal of Littlerock, Favian Real of Mayfair, Mike Viramontes of Hesperia, La Costa Canyon tournament medalist Gilbert Carrillo of Brawley, and Santiago Carrillo of Hillcrest.
2016 CIF state medalist Steven Comstock of Northview, suffered a setback last week, at the Peoria tournament in Arizona, that will keep him from competing this week. Nevertheless, this weight class has a well-balanced blend of battle-tested veterans in search of their first Five Counties title.
NHSCA and Doc Buchanan medalist Christian Rodriguez of Selma may find himself acquiring the title belt on Saturday evening the way he has been performing as of late. Only a sophomore, Rodriguez was triumphant in advancing to the CIF state tournament last year. Hanford’s Isaiah Corona placed fourth last year at 152 and should challenge for a higher position on the medal stand this week.
Three exciting wrestlers that could challenge for a spot in the finals include Dylan Miracle of Madera South, Uriel Beristain of Mater Dei, and Godfrey Lozada of Rancho Bernardo. Miracle is a two-time state qualifier out of the tough Central Section. He has yet to lose this season to any foe from California. Beristain earned a trip to the 2015 CIF state qualifier as he was a San Diego Masters finalist. Last season, he was sidelined the entire season after transferring to Mater Dei Catholic from Olympian High. Lozada is a rugged Grappler from San Diego power Rancho Bernardo. Last year, he was a match away from moving on to the CIF state tournament at 160-pounds.
Other wrestlers that could vie for a spot on the podium include Southern Section Masters Meet qualifier Tommy Rojas of Shadow Hills and Sierra Nevada medalist Zack Gonzales of Lakewood.
Leading the way are two seasoned wrestlers who were successful last weekend in placing at the rugged Doc Buchanan tournament, the toughest tournament on the West Coast. Lemoore’s Angel Solis has been a solid wrestler this season for former Fresno State All-American Marcio Botelho. He started the season strong by placing at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman tournament in Ohio, as well as the Reno TOC in Nevada. Gerardo Hernandez, of Capistrano Valley, competed for the first time this season last week. He made the best of his opportunity to compete at Doc Buchanan as he placed eighth.
Martin Solano of Norte Vista could be a surprise finalist this week if he is healthy. Winner of the Mann Classic during the second week of December, Solano defaulted from the Shark Tank tournament after advancing to the quarterfinals. Be on the lookout for two-time CIF Sac-Joaquin Masters qualifier Dylan Kranich of Tokay. This could be the year he finally qualifies for the state tournament.
Jeremiah Smith is a tough senior from Rim of the World that finished in the blood round at Doc Buchanan. He could surely be fighting for a spot on the podium Saturday afternoon.
Keep an eye on the following wrestlers, each is capable of earning a spot on the podium this Saturday evening. They include Southern Section Masters Meet Qualifiers Merrick O’Donnell of Fountain Valley, Damian Jeffries of Corona, and El Cajon medalist Lucian Duran of Northview.
Two-time CIF state medalist and NHSCA champion Chasen Blair, of Rancho Bernardo, will be vying for his second Five Counties title this week. Ranked nationally, Blair has verbally committed to compete for the University of North Carolina. He is coming off winning the prestigious Doc Buchanan tournament in Clovis. Two-time CIF state qualifier and 2016 USAW Post-Season Nationals runner-up Nathan Chavez of Madera South is up a weight class and more than ready to challenge Blair for a Five Counties title.
Three California wrestlers expected to make an impact at this weight include Hamzah Al-Saudi of Palisades Charter, Abraham Rivera of San Pedro, and Cody Williams of Lakewood. Palisade’s Al-Saudi finished in the top 12 last year in this tournament and is expected to compete for a spot on the podium. Rivera placed second in the LA City Section (182) and qualified to state where he went 2-2. He should contend for a spot on the podium and become the first Pirate to medal at Five Counties. A CIF champion last season, Williams recently placed second in the Sierra Nevada tournament to Blair. He was a match away last year from advancing to the CIF state tournament.
Other wrestlers to watch include 2016 USAW Post-Season Nationals All-American Travis Henderson of Corona/Centennial, Southern Section Masters Meet qualifiers Luis Melecio of Bloomington, Jesus Coronado of Simi Valley, Ethan Bakker of Los Alamitos, and Chris Dixson of La Costa Canyon.
The 220-pound weight division is up for grabs for any wrestler ready to step it up this week. The highest returning medalists from last year are Hunter Parks of Hanford, who was fourth, followed by Joey Daniels of Santa Ana, placing seventh, and Luis Garcia, of Norte Vista, finishing in seventh as well. Each one earned medals at either 195 or 220.
Two weekends ago, Daniels defeated Parks in the finals of the ASICS Southern California Challenge, 6-2. Last season, he opened some eyes as he was a Southern Section Masters finalist and capped off his season by finishing in the top 12 at the CIF state tournament.
Hunter Parks of Hanford and Luis Garcia of Del Norte High were both triumphant in advancing to the CIF state tournament last year. To date, Parks has earned a title at the California Classic and wound up as the runner-up at the Chukchansi Invitational, ASICS Southern California Challenge, and the Dinuba Invitational. Garcia has medaled in three tournaments this season. Including placing second at the Mann Classic where he lost via a fall to Daniels.
A grappler to keep an eye on is Dane Martinez of Brawley High. So far, he has won titles at the John Bright Memorial and Las Vegas Holiday Classic. Martinez owns victories this season over Garcia, Doc Buchanan top 12 finisher Ryan Olivas of Rancho Bernardo, and Clovis West Shootout bronze medalist Levi Ball-Bryant of Servite. All wrestlers mentioned above will be competing this week in the tournament.
We cannot forget about Southern Section Masters Meet qualifier Stephen Salazar of Bloomington, Travis Henderson of Corona/Centennial and Cerritos TOC champion Adrian Rodriguez of Alemany High.
The odds on favorite to win this weight class is 2016 Five Counties Champion Jackson Serna of Southern California power Northview High. Serna made great strides last year as he finished his season a match away from garnering All-State accolades. Three wrestlers that are having a great season and are more than capable of moving on to the finals include Armando Barcenas of Hanford, Tony Fusi of Corona, and Noah Wright of Lemoore. Undefeated this season with a 21-0 record, Barcenas has won titles at the Chukchansi Invitational, California Classic, Southern California Challenge, and the Dinuba Invitational. Fusi is a highly competitive grappler from the Southern Section. He is also undefeated on the season with a 24-0 record and has acquired titles at three different tournaments this season. Wright is coming off from placing in the prestigious Doc Buchanan tournament for the Tigers. During his run in that tournament, he knocked off Del Oro’s Pablo Miller, the second-ranked wrestler in the state, via a fall.
A competitor that could very well open some eyes this weekend is Matt Williams of Los Osos. During the first week of December, William won the Carter Invitational where he defeated Serna, 5-4. Williams’ only blemish on the season has been a loss to Fusi of Corona, 1-0. That meeting occurred in the finals of the Black Watch tournament.
Other potential medalists are Las Vegas High Robby Kaempfer, who finished second in the Nevada state tournament. La Costa Canyon champion Randy Gonzalez of Lakewood, Cerritos TOC champion Tony D’Acosta of Torrance, and Joseph Tan of Mayfair High.