No other section in the state can boast semifinals like the 195-pound weight class at the Central Section Yosemite Divisional wrestling tournament.
For that matter, the CIF State Championships might not be able to touch the action on deck Saturday at Lemoore High’s Special Events Center.
Clovis North’s Austin Flores, top-ranked in the state by the California Wrestler, will face Buchanan’s No. 5 Peter An when the semifinals begin at roughly 10 a.m. Consolation matches start at 9 a.m. for a tournament that will advance eight to the Masters on Feb. 28 at East Bakersfield.
The winner of the Flores-An match would face Clovis’ No. 2 Adam Prentice or Madera’s No. 3 Alec Gamboa in the finals, which are scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
Again, these aren’t just the Central Section’s top wrestlers, but four of the top five in a state.
And this is only the second of a three-tournament qualification process that section wrestlers go through to reach the state meet on March 6-7 at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.
“I feel like this is just like the state tournament,” said Flores, younger brother of two-time Buchanan state champion Ryan Flores. “Who you’ll be seeing here are the guys you’ll see in the semifinals at state as well. This is definitely a tough tournament.”
All four semifinalists rolled through the quarterfinals with falls as Flores dropped Highland’s Eric Saavedra in 2:22, An pinned No. 17 Elias Rosales of Bakersfield in 27 seconds, Prentice stopped Sunnyside’s Rene Rodriguez in 1:11 and Gamboa pinned Fresno’s No. 39 Matt Stutte in 3:28.
Gamboa is a two-time state medalist, Flores medaled last season in his second trip to state, An is a two-time qualifier and Prentice qualified for the first time last season.
“There are a bunch of good guys here,” Gamboa said. “This is as tough a divisional as there is in the state. It doesn’t get any better than wrestling in the Valley.”
Flores is one of five section wrestlers who entered divisionals weekend ranked No. 1 in the state.
The group includes Clovis’ Justin Mejia (113), Buchanan’s Durbin Lloren (120), Mission Oak’s Jaden Enriquez (132) and Selma’s Jose Alvarez (285). They all reached the semifinals, with Alvarez competing in the Sequoia/Sierra Divisional.
All are returning state medalists, with Mejia winning the 106-pound title and Enriquez placing fourth at 132 as freshmen.
“Knowing I have a target on my back makes me want to work harder,” said Enriquez, who pinned Centennial’s Etienne Armijo in 5:31 during the quarterfinals. “I don’t want to get upset. It’s a big motivator.”
Four-time defending state champion Clovis (187.5 points) and Buchanan (179.5) emerged as the top two teams after the first day.
The state top-ranked Cougars and No. 3 Bears each have all 14 of their wrestlers alive, including 12 for both in the semifinals. Bakersfield is third at 140.5 with seven in the semis and six in the consolation bracket.