With a determined finish to the Yosemite Divisionals, Jared Hill helped personify why Clovis High sets the standard for wrestling excellence not only in the Central Section but across the state.
In the last match of a thrilling finals round, with a sixth straight team title secured and a ticket to Masters punched, Hill found himself trailing Buchanan’s Conner Francis 3-0 in the third period of their 145-pound match Saturday.
This was the same opponent who beat Hill 5-2 for the Tri-River Athletic Conference title last week.
But with no tangible reason to keep scrapping other than pride, Hill rallied to send the match to overtime, then was awarded a takedown after Cougars co-coach Steve Tirapelle challenged an initial call of no advantage for a 5-3 decision.
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That capped Clovis’ 32.5-point victory (366.5-334) over Buchanan as the Cougars — in pursuit of a fifth straight CIF State championship — advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to next Saturday’s Masters at East Bakersfield. The Bears also moved on 14 as they seek their best finish at the state meet since placing second in 2009.
The state championships are March 6-7 at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.
“That shows how far I’ve come and how good my coaches are,” said Hill, who moved ahead of Lane Barnes late in the year after the two dueled most of it for the job at 145. “They tell us to wrestle as hard as we can for 6 minutes. They have trained us well and given us the tools. Now we have to use them.”
Clovis produced seven champions out of its meet-best 10 finalists, including Justin Mejia (113), outstanding lowerweight Khristian Olivas (140), Dominic Kincaid (160), Josh Hokit (170), AJ Nevills (182) and Seth Nevills (220). No Cougar finished lower than seventh at a tournament that sends its top eight to Masters.
Mejia, last year’s 106-pound state champ and currently top-ranked in his weight class, won one of three final bouts featuring wrestlers ranked among the top three in the state when he beat Mission Oak’s No. 2 David Campbell 3-1.
“It’s good to see (Campbell) before state,” said Mejia (29-0). “I like the competition, and I like it when the crowd gets into it. The next time we meet, I need to take it to him more.”
Buchanan had four champions, highlighted by state No. 1 Durbin Llorin’s 3-1 victory over No. 3 Navonte Demison of Bakersfield at 120 pounds. Ethan Leake (106), Abner Romero (152) and outstanding upperweight Zakary Levatino (285) also won titles for the Bears.
“I feel great right now,” said Lloren (37-1), a two-time state medalist. “If I can keep this up the next couple of weeks, I will give myself a good chance to win that state title.”
Clovis North’s top-ranked Austin Flores beat No. 2 Adam Prentice of Clovis 5-3 at 195 pounds in the event’s other marquee match-up. And, Flores has to go through state No. 5 Peter An of Buchanan in the semifinals, winning 6-4.
“It was definitely a tough weekend,” said Flores, now 36-2. “But it was a good weekend for me, that’s for sure.”
Mission Oak’s state No. 1 Jaden Enriquez (132) and Bakersfield’s No. 3 JJ Figeroa (126) also were champs.