photo courtesy of Richard Immel
The nation’s top high school wrestler’s head west this weekend in search of the coveted cowboy hat given to the winners of the Doc Buchanan Invitational put on by Clovis Unified School District. The field is always one of the best we see all year and this year it’s no different as hammers from coast to coast look to put themselves on the map.
Here are just some of the things you’ll have to look forward to this weekend:
Richie Figueroa, who’s currently ranked No. 1 at 113, makes the descent back down to 106 and is the heavy, heavy favorite here. There is intrigue, however, with the return of Chance Lamer to 106. Lamer is a 2018 cadet world team member at 45 kilos. He made a move up to 113 early in the season but struggled mightily, moving from as high as second in the rankings at 106 to completely out of the rankings up a weight. Joe Cangro appears to have solidified his spot as the starter for Bergen Catholic at 106 ahead of Alex Almeyda. Cangro is coming off a strong showing at Beast of the East with a third-place finish. The final name to keep an eye on in this one is Nick Gonzalez of Montini Catholic. Gonzalez is unranked but is coming on an impressive performance at the Dvorak Invitational where he took home the championship with a 9-1 win in the finals.
As we’ve gotten all year, 113 provides us with a good bit of firepower. The weight is headlined by Beast of the East third-place finisher Nick Kayal of Bergen Catholic as well as No. 9-ranked Timothy Levine of St. John Bosco. Figueroa’s descent to 106 opens up a spot for Tristan Lujan at 113. Lujan had previously been ranked No. 18 at 120 and took fourth at 113 at Super 32. Vince Cornella, a state champ in Colorado, made a move from 106 to 113 this year and entered the fray at Doc B. Cornella, like Lamer, has struggled a bit with the move up, but impressed in his last major tournament, taking home the title at the Reno Tournament of champions.
Also in the field are California state runner-up and California World Challenge champ Carlos Negrete Jr. as well as Max Black of Colorado, who is currently ranked No. 14 in the country at 106 after a strong showing on the freestyle and Greco scene this summer.
Fourth-ranked Nic Bouzakis starts us off at 120. Bouzakis is fresh off a Beast of the East crown a couple weeks ago and, considering how volatile the rankings at this weight have proven to have been, will have an ocean-sized target on his back this weekend. The two seed goes to returning CIF champ Maximo Renteria who sits 13th in our rankings. The two met a year ago at Who’s #1 duals with Bouzakis picking up a second-period fall. Former Super 32 champ Antonio Lorenzo grabs the third seed here. Lorenzo and Renteria met a year ago in the state semis at 113 with Renteria picking up the decision victory. Wyatt Yapoujian, who comes in unranked but off the back of the Reno TOC win, grabs the four seed here. Yapoujian fell to Cornella in last year’s Colorado state final at 106.
The dark horse here, if you could even call him that, is freshman Joey Cruz of Clovis North. Cruz was a FloNats runner-up to Figueroa a year ago and took third at the Zinkin behind Lujan and Renteria. He lost a close semifinal to Renteria, 5-3.
Robert Howard is back in action after a somewhat shocking semifinal lost at Beast of the East to Dylan Shawver of Elyria. Howard, a Cadet world team member, is the top seed here in a pretty solid weight class. He slots in ahead of Dvorak champ Dylan Ragusin who’s ranked No. 19 for Montini Catholic.
Super freshman sensation Daniel Cardenas of Pomona is unranked but coming off a third-place finish in Reno. Unfortunately, it appears Reno champ Aaron Nagao will not be in attendance despite his school, Esperanza, competing. Devin Murphy, ranked No. 10 in the country, is also a threat to Howard. Murphy took third in the state of California a year ago and won the California World Challenge in the fall. Lastly, unranked Mosha Schwartz of Ponderosa has struggled since coming all the way down from 138, but could be dangerous if he begins to adjust better to the weight cut. Schwartz is lanky, dangerous on top and has an array of attacks with his upper body.
In one of the shallowest lightweight fields you’ll find, 132 plays host to just one ranked wrestler at Doc B. That man is No. 15 Ryan Franco. Franco, just a sophomore, was a state runner-up a year ago to Arizona State signee Cleveland Belton. He also rolled through the 132-pound field at Zinkin recently on the way to a title. His toughest test will come from Marcos Polanco. Polanco, while unranked, finish fourth in the state a year ago at 132 and is committed to continuing his wrestling career at Minnesota. He makes the descent down to 132 from 138 after winning the Zinkin in a field that included No. 16, Beau Ohlson. Polanco’s only loss on the year comes to No. 6 at 145, Cael Valencia.
Chase Saldate makes his return to action after injury defaulting out of his Zinkin quarterfinal. The No. 7-ranked wrestler is a junior that has committed to Michigan State and is a returning fourth-place finisher at the California state championships. Theorius Robison makes his return to 132 for Doc B after jumping up to 145 for Reno and struggling mightily, placing just seventh. Robison is a Northern Colorado commit and a defending Doc B champ at 132.
Justin Rivera of Lake Highland Prep comes into Doc B after a very impressive performance at Beast of the East where he claimed fourth in an absolutely stacked bracket. The future Campbell Camel is up to No. 10 in the country as has shown the ability to both take out top competition and lose to guys you wouldn’t expect to be close to him. The final name to watch at 138 is Legend Lamer, who is coming off a Reno TOC win at 145 in the same bracket as Robison. Lamer, the older brother of Chance, will continue his career at Cal Poly next year and appears to be wrestling as well as he has at any point of his high school career.
After dominating the field at Walsh Ironman until he ran into potentially the hottest wrestler in the country in Ryan Anderson in the finals, Jaden Abas has decided to stay up at 145 for Doc B. Abas is a defending Doc B champ at 138 and enters this one as the favorite, but not without his challengers. Cael Valencia seems to be finding his form as a sophomore and is up to No. 6 in the country after strong showings at both Super 32 and Ironman. Valencia also blew away the field at Zinkin, where he was competing up at 152, and his closest match was a 5-0 win in the quarterfinals. Fidel Mayora has been up and down since the summer where he pushed Carson Manville to a third match at UWW Cadet trials in Akron. Since then, Mayora has dropped to No. 10 in the rankings from as high as fourth, but he’s shown the ability to knock off even the best competition. Luka Wick, like Valencia, is a sophomore with great bloodlines and the No. 14-ranked wrestler in the country also appears to be hitting his stride. Wick took fifth in the state a year ago and then went out and took eighth in an absolutely stacked field at Super 32.
Somewhat surprisingly, it’s the Dvorak champ and Oklahoma signee Jake Stiles who grabs the top seed here for the Montini, but he won’t go unchallenged. Far from it, actually, as the second seed is Selma’s Jace Luchau. Luchau, as most know, was a Who’s #1 participant this year and then bumped up to 160 for Ironman where he took second to Connor Brady in a tough field. Both of them will have to fend off recent Reno Tournament of Champions winner and newest Ohio State commit Isaac Wilcox. Wilcox, like the aforementioned Lamer, is wrestling as well as he ever has and is a nice sleeper pick to take home the title here. Also in the mix is No. 12-ranked Aaron Gandara who has seemingly placed in the top four at 1,000 of these big events but is yet to get over the hump for a title. Gandara, a junior at California powerhouse Poway, could really open some eyes if he were able to do so this weekend.
Third-ranked Matthew Olguin comes into this one flying high after a Zinkin win where he dominated Luchau, his future Fresno State teammate, in the finals. Olguin placed third in the state a year ago all the way down at 138 but seems to have kept his speed advantage while packing on plenty of extra power. He’ll have to get by Del Oro’s Noah Blake, who’s ranked 18th in the country and is also a defending CIF third-place winner if he wants to take home a Cowboy hat. Kai Bele, who has been anywhere from the top 10 to off the radar over the last 18 months or so, makes the trip across the country for a Lake High Prep team that has decided to test itself anywhere and everywhere this year. When Bele is on his game, he’s shown he can go with just about anyone. The problem, however, is that you never really know when he’ll be on his game.
A pair of defending Doc B runners-up mark a wide-open field at 170 that features just a single ranked wrestler, but plenty on the cusp. Trey Munoz of Trabuco Hills (CA) grabs the top seed after falling in the finals last year to Gerard Angelo of Bergen Catholic 15-9 down at 152. He’s seeded just ahead of Longmont’s (CO) Drake Engelking who, like Munoz, lost in the finals to a Bergen Catholic wrestler in 2018. Engelking fell to current Stanford freshman phenom, Shane Griffith, 15-4. Christian Rodriguez of Selma, like Gandara, has found himself placing at many top tournaments but hasn’t been able to break through for a win. He took second at Doc B a year ago, should he get over the hump this weekend, he’ll be in the discussion to break into the top 20 at this weight. Gabe Martinez of Oakdale (CA) is the only ranked participant at this weight. Martinez enters as No. 12-ranked wrestler in the country. The Campbellsville pledge is a defending state runner-up, and I have him as the favorite here despite the lower seed.
Chris Foca of Bergen Catholic enters Doc B on a roll after a strong showing to grab the title at Beast of the East in a field full of top-10 wrestlers. Foca, a future Cornell wrestler, has shown the ability to be hot and cold at times, but has been red-hot to start the season with good showings at Journeyman, Super 32, Ironman and Beast. He slots in ahead of defending California state champ Trent Tracy, who topped Martinez 10-2 in the state finals at 170 a year ago. Tracy, a senior, will continue his career at Cal Poly.
Nathan Haas of St. John Bosco enters the tournament just outside the rankings. While he doesn’t have any discernable folkstyle results, his showing this summer in Fargo where he finished as a Cadet runner-up let the wrestling world know just how good the sophomore can be.
Cardenas, next topic? Not necessarily. Bergen’s Jacob Cardenas enters as the top seed and the heavy favorite, but Cornell pledge isn’t just going to walk to victory. After falling to AJ Ferrari in the Beast finals, he’ll have to deal with third-ranked Pete Christensen of Montini at Doc B. Christensen is a Wisconsin signee who is also an Illinois state champ and a Fargo finalist this past summer. The pair had a fantastic match as USA Wrestling Junior Duals over the summer where Cardenas raced out to a 6-0 lead but then had to hold on and won 6-5. Fresno State commit and a Gilroy senior Ryan Reyes will also look to throw himself into that elite level conversation. Reyes took third in the state a year ago for Clovis West but has since made the transfer over to Gilroy and has a pretty could heavyweight/light heavyweight coach to work with over there in one Mr. Daniel Cormier.
Victor Jaquez, the No. 13-ranked wrestler in the country and a Cal Poly signee looks to hold onto to his ranking as the top seed at 220. Jaquez took third in the state of California a year ago. He’ll be the heavy favorite in what has been a pretty thin weight nationwide. His biggest challenge could come from returning California fifth-place winner Erich Osteen of Chaminade Prep. Osteen’s biggest focus thus far for Chaminade has been football, but with his high school football career wrapped up and colleges lining up looking for athletic heavyweights, don’t be surprised to see the gridiron star take the next step on the mat.
If we saw anything other than Cohlton Schultz over Nicholas Villareal in the finals here, I’d be pretty flabbergasted. Schultz dominated his way to finals here a year ago and then came out with a 3-2 finals win in a fantastic matchup with future Penn State heavyweight Seth Nevills. Villareal, meanwhile, fell in the semis at 220 a year ago but came back for third. He ended up finishing sixth in the state at 285 and after a slew of seniors graduated from heavyweight a year ago, he finds himself ranked No. 12 in the country, and the second-highest ranked junior. Ben Dooley, meanwhile, enters as the three seed after reaching the finals in Reno where he fell to Schultz by fall.