Alex Cisneros' pursuit of a third straight individual state wrestling championship met its biggest challenge to date, while Clovis High's quest for a record ninth team title is armed like never before.
Selma's state No. 1-ranked Cisneros won a hard-fought, three-overtime thriller over Clovis North's Vince Rodriguez for the 125-pound title, and Clovis High produced 14 qualifiers and four individual champions while rolling past Bakersfield for its fourth straight and 20th overall team crown Saturday during the Central Section Masters tournament at Buchanan.
Neither Cisneros, a junior who won state titles at 103 pounds as a freshman and at 112 pounds last year, nor Rodriguez, a state bronze-medalist the past two seasons, scored an offensive point.
Cisneros got an escape in the second round, Rodriguez countered with an escape in the third, and they battled to a stalemate until Cisneros got free from Rodriguez's hold with 14 seconds left in the third overtime period for a 2-1 win.
"It was a tough match," Cisneros said. "I didn't feel I wrestled to the best of my ability, but that's how it goes sometimes. Next week, I'm going to have to bring a little more than I brought this week."
Clovis, meanwhile, became the first team in section history to qualify all 14 of its wrestlers to the CIF State Championships, set for next Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield.
Daniel Gaytan (119 pounds), Dakota Gordon (189), Taylor Ferguson (215) and Nick Nevills (285) all advanced with section gold as the Cougars topped defending state champ Bakersfield with its 10 qualifiers and three champions 241.5-169 for the team title. The margin of victory was 32.5 points greater than a week ago, when Clovis beat Bakersfield at the Yosemite Divisional.
"Last week, we had a lot of guys sick or injured," Ferguson said. "We all came back this week and pulled through. The more guys we take, the bigger the advantage, and we're looking for any advantage we can get because Bakersfield is a great team."
No. 3-ranked Gaytan upset No. 1 Stevan Knoblauch of Clovis West 7-5 in the 119-pound final, scoring the winning points with 3 seconds left in the match.
"I'm proud of myself. I did what I came to do," said Gaytan, who was sixth at the divisional meet. "And I'm proud of [the team]. We did what we were supposed to."
There were no other upsets on a night that saw 11 of 14 finals feature two state top-10 wrestlers, including five matchups where both were ranked in the top three.
Porterville's No. 2 Shane Yacuta captured one of those top-3 matchups with a 12-4 win over No. 3 Timmy Box of Bakersfield to earn his third trip to the state meet.
"I'm just glad I got a win this weekend to kick it up for state," said Yacuta, fourth in the state at 130 pounds last year. "I'm planning to win state. But I know it won't be easy."
Five state No. 1 wrestlers earned Masters titles, including tournament Outstanding Lowerweight Isaiah Martinez of Lemoore, who pinned Madera's Miguel Rodriguez in 1:28 at 140 pounds.
"I'm just doing what I want to do on the mat," Martinez said. "Everything is working for me right now. I'm peaking at the right time."
Other No. 1s to win were Clovis West's Nikko Reyes (9-2 over Selma's Justin Lozano at 171), Clovis' Nevills (pin of Liberty-Bakersfield's Frankie Hurtado in 3:15 at 285) and Bakersfield's Bryce Hammond (15-0 over Clovis' Adrian Salas at 160).
Buchanan's Damien Arredondo beat Bakersfield's Coleman Hammond (3-1) for the second straight week in the 145-pound final, and Porterville freshman Mason Pengilly added to his divisional title by beating Buchanan's Manny Marin 5-1 at 103 pounds.