The reason behind Clovis High's domination of Central Section wrestling for seven years running was summed up in what was likely the scintillating final 60 seconds of Matt Czeshinski's high school career.
Getting the nod on Senior Night over regular 138-pounder and state No. 18-ranked Lane Barnes, Czeshinski rallied from a four-point deficit in the final period to pull out a 12-7 victory over Bobby Miguel that helped propel the state No. 1 and nationally No. 3-ranked Cougars to a 52-13 Tri-River Athletic Conference dual victory over Clovis West on Wednesday night.
With backups who would start for many teams around the section, Clovis clinched its seventh straight league title and won an 84th straight dual meet against California competition dating back to January 2007. Up next is the TRAC championship tournament at Buchanan at 9 a.m. Saturday.
"It's a testament to the program and to Matt," Cougars co-coach Ben Holscher said. "Hard work pays off, and our kids show up to work. It's nice to see a kid who busts his tail to take care of business."
Czeshinski appeared to be headed toward defeat after Miguel, a state honorable mention, went ahead 7-3 in the third period. But Czeshinski just kept coming, getting a reversal with 14 seconds left to take his first lead and then receiving near fall points that sealed the outcome and brought the Clovis crowd to its feet.
"We train so each and every one of us can wrestle at a state level," said Czeshinski, who will give way to Barnes in the starting lineup this weekend. "That was an amazing feeling — the rush you live for."
Czeshinski's come-from-behind win was the fifth of 11 for the Cougars, who received pins from Josh Hokit (160), Brody Brand (170), AJ Nevills (182), Matt Weiss (195) and the nation's No. 1-ranked 285-pounder, Penn State-bound Nick Nevills. The Cougars also earned a slight upset when state No. 3 Khristian Olivas downed No. 2 Michael Knoblauch at 126 pounds.
Heading into the postseason, all 14 of Clovis' regulars are ranked 35th or better by The California Wrestler, which has tabbed the Cougars as the favorite to capture a fourth straight CIF State Championship on March 7-8 at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.
"It's always nice winning, but everything is about March," Brand said. "That's when we find out if we can accomplish what we've been working for, some of us for eight years."
Clovis West, which is ranked as high as No. 33 nationally and No. 4 in the state, settled for third place behind the Cougars and nationally No. 32-ranked Buchanan in the TRAC, arguably the country's toughest wrestling league.
And this is a Golden Eagles team that this season has won titles at three tournaments — the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno, the Eastern States in New York and the Tim Brown Memorial in Sacramento, all featuring challenging fields of 85 teams or more.
"We put ourselves on the line in Nevada, New York and Sacramento to prepare for this league," said Clovis West coach Ian Shaw, whose team got wins from Chris Garcia (145), Tyler Zimmer (152) and Cortes Morales (220). "We see lots of tough teams, but none tougher than our league. That's just the model of Clovis Unified wrestling. Kids wrestle since they are little kids, and they wrestle to win. It's an expectation."
"It's a testament to the program and to Matt. Hard work pays off, and our kids show up to work. It's nice to see a kid who busts his tail take care of business." — Cougars co-coach Ben Holscher on backup Matt Czeshinski's victory at 138 pounds
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