Photos By John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com and Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
The 2016-17 season is long gone and many significant accomplishments occurred in the Golden State. From Justin Mejia (Clovis) making history by becoming the second four-time state champion in California to Selma capturing their second straight CIF girls state tournament, this was a year to remember. The 2017-18 should be even better with five state champions and 55 CIF state medalists returning.
Junior Seth Nevills of Clovis is on pace to become the first grappler from the Golden State to finish his prep career without a loss. Nevills, who currently has an overall 126-0 record, finished the season 37-0 by pinning all foes he faced. Nevills has been challenged by some of the top heavyweights in the country and all have failed to give him his first loss. He is a three-time Doc Buchanan champion, considered the best tournament in California, as well as a League, Valley, and Masters Champion. He recently participated at FloNationals where he came out with the title.
A Monster was Set Free
The state of California has had a long history of producing some of our nation’s top high caliber lower weight wrestlers and this year was no exception. Freshman Jesse Vasquez of St. John Bosco became a household name across the country as he worked his way to an individual state championship in Bakersfield to join past Bosco greats such as Aaron Pico, Cade Olivas, Zahid Valencia and Anthony Valencia. Without any hesitation or freshman jitters from competing on the big stage, Vasquez defeated three-time Fargo national champion Nicholas Aguilar of Gilroy, 6-5. Without a doubt, Vasquez will be the clear favorite to repeat as a state champion in California next season.
Small Town with Big Aspirations
The city of Selma, which is situated near Fresno, is a town of about 24,000 residents which supports their high school athletes, especially the wrestlers. Their girl’s wrestling squad won their second consecutive state team championship with 111 points and had two state champions in Alleida Martinez (111) and Gracie Figueroa (126), who are both Cadet World medalists and undefeated in scholastic wrestling. Both athletes are on pace to make history in the state of California by becoming the third and fourth wrestlers to win four consecutive state championships. The boy’s team doesn’t fall far behind the girl’s team with all the talent they have produced throughout the years. Both teams are favorites to make a run at a state team championship next season with all the new talent arriving from their middle school feeder.
Too Many Upsets to Speak About
The talk of the state tournament this past season was all the upsets that took place in the event. There were too many to write down. However, for me, the following upsets are worth speaking about. At 113, three-time Fargo champion Nicholas Aguilar (Gilroy) rode out nationally ranked wrestler and returning champion Matthew Olguin (Buchanan) to advance to the state finals, 1-0. Last year, Olguin defeated Aguilar at 106-pounds to win the CIF state tournament. Sidney Flores (Bishop Amat) had the tournament of his life as he controlled the pace of his semifinals match against defending state champion Ethan Leake (Buchanan) to become the first state finalist from his school, 7-5. One of the biggest upsets in the tournament for me was watching Isaiah Perez (Dinuba) losing a 3-1 overtime match versus his longtime rival Robert Garcia IV (Selma). Prior to meeting up with Garcia this time, Perez was 2-0 against him.
Putting Temescal Canyon on The Map
Sophomore Cleveland Belton (Temescal Canyon) brought the heat to the state of California as he dominated his way to a state title in the 120-pound weight bracket. A former Georgia state runner-up, Belton didn’t allow any foe from California to take away his dream of being called a CIF state champion. As he achieved his personal goal, he also made history at his school by becoming the first grappler to win an individual state championship. His success of dominating the mats in California didn’t stop there as he also recently won Cadet Folkstyle Nationals and the always tough Flo Reno Worlds.
Buchanan, which has always been a great program in California, finally has emerged as the school to beat in the Golden State. When they won the team title in 2016, people weren’t sure if it was by luck or if they were the real deal. Well, the question has been answered as they continued their dominating ways in the state and the nation as well. With so many returning state medalists and qualifiers for the 2017-18 season, the Bears will be the favorites to repeat once again. Former Illini wrestlers Troy Tirapelle and Gabe Flores have brought a strong mentality to the room that has helped them achieve success in the Golden State.