Clovis News: Sports

Cougars qualify all 12 wrestlers at Masters

LEMOORE -- Clovis High's pursuit of a ninth CIF State Wrestling Championship continues with its largest group of competitors in the program's storied history.

The Cougars qualified all 12 of their wrestlers, led by 189-pound champion Tommy Burriel, while winning their third straight Central Section Masters tournament Saturday night at Lemoore High.

"It's a nice cushion," said Burriel, who was a sophomore medalist when Clovis won its record eighth state title in 2008. "We still have to wrestle to the best of our abilities, but having 12 guys helps."

Clovis, which outdistanced Bakersfield 168-154 for the team title, also qualified Jonas Gaytan (fifth at 103 pounds), Daniel Gaytan (third at 112), Devin Everk (second, 119), Juan Salas (fourth, 125), Sonny Cervantes (fourth, 130), Brady Bersano (fourth, 140), Blake Thompson (fourth, 152), Tyler Ceremello (third, 160), Zach Nevills (second, 171), Taylor Ferguson (third, 215) and Max Howard (seventh, 285) for the state meet, which is scheduled for next Friday and Saturday at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.

"We're pretty fortunate," Clovis coach Steve Tirapelle said. "I thought our kids did pretty well."

Bakersfield, which qualified 10 wrestlers out of last week's Yosemite Divisionals, ended up with 11 state qualifiers after getting two alternates into the tournament. The Drillers and Cougars will be among the top team contenders next weekend.

"I think we'll be in the hunt," Tirapelle said. "It's just who's on those two days. But now I'd say we have as good a chance as anyone."

Individually, the Central Section's only returning state champion, Selma's Alex Cisneros, looks poised for another run. The Bears' sophomore overcame a quick takedown by Sanger's Chris Diaz to rally for a 5-2 victory in the 112-pound final.

"It didn't really bother me," Cisneros said. "I make mistakes all the time. I just had to bounce back from it."

Perhaps the biggest upset of the night came at 125 pounds, where Clovis West's Chris Martinez, ranked sixth in the state, topped No. 1 Vince Rodriguez of Clovis North 6-2 in sudden-death overtime.

Rodriguez, who had topped Martinez in overtime at divisionals last week, had a 3-1 lead after a second-period-opening escape. Both wrestlers were called for stalling in the second, making it 4-2. But Martinez got an escape early in the third and had the match extended to overtime when Rodriguez was called for stalling with 3.8 seconds left.

Martinez shot a double-leg 21 seconds into sudden death for the takedown and a 6-4 win.

"This is real big for me. It's a real confidence booster beating the No. 1 kid in the state, finally," said Martinez, who won Masters titles at 112 and 119 pounds the previous two seasons. "I really wanted it. I worked hard and prepared this week. Now, I'm ready for the big show next week."

Six other defending state medalists -- Clovis West's Zach Zimmer (119), Selma's Nick Pena (130), Bakersfield's Timmy Box (140, the tournament's top lower weight), Lemoore's Nick Sierra (152), Madera's James Cook (171) and Bakersfield's Brian Schoene (215) return to the state finals as Masters champions.

"It was great winning in front of my fans and family in my own gym," Sierra said. "I'm healthy and feel good. I'll be in the best shape of my life. I'm just gonna come after it. I want a state title."

Madera's Luis Contreras wrapped up the evening with a 6-2 win over Frontier's Josh Davis for the 285-pound title. Contreras enters the state meet as a relative unknown -- he's not ranked among the state's top eight or the eight honorable mentions by -- but he's now won the Tri-River Athletic Conference tournament, Yosemite Divisionals and Masters in consecutive weeks.

"This feels good," Contreras said. "All the hard work I've been putting in paid off."

Other Masters champions included Frontier's Vincent Gomez (103), Clovis East's Moses Quezada (135), Bakersfield's Coleman Hammond (145), and Selma's Justin Lozano (160, the tournament's top upper weight).