BAKERSFIELD -- Selma High, which brought just five wrestlers, emerged in prime position to win its first CIF State Championship, and 17 Central Section wrestlers reached the semifinals Friday after Day 1 at Rabobank Arena.
The Bears sit in fourth place with 68.5 points, but trail leader and defending state champion Poway by just four points.
And they have four wrestlers left, all in the semifinals: 112-pounder Alex Cisneros (the defending state champ at 103), 130-pounder Nick Pena (who placed third at 125 last year), 140-pounder Nathan Zarate (fifth at 135 last year) and 160-pounder Justin Lozano.
Poway has five wrestlers alive, only two in the semifinals; third-place Gilroy (69) has five left with two in the semis.
"We're holding together well," said Pena, a 9-0 winner over Cody Hancock of Martin Luther King in the quarterfinals.
"But we've got to keep up the intensity."
Clovis, the team favorite heading into the tournament with a state-best 12 competitors, essentially wrestled its way out of contention, losing seven kids on the first day.
The Cougars -- who won an eighth state title in 2008 -- are fifth with 66 points and still mathematically alive with Daniel Gaytan (112), Zach Nevills (171) and Tommy Burriel (189) in the semifinals and two others in the consolation bracket.
"It's not exactly what we were hoping for," Clovis coach Steve Tirapelle said. "We're not in the hunt at all. We had some kids who weren't prepared mentally to do battle. We held it together through Masters, but didn't have it here."
The section is guaranteed at least two finalists as Sanger's Chris Diaz and Clovis' Gaytan will square off at 112 pounds, and Buchanan's Martin Fabbian and Clovis' Nevills will meet in the semifinals, which start at 9:30 a.m. today. The finals are scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.
Fabbian was a state runner-up last year at 152 pounds and wants more this year.
"I've had a bad taste in my mouth from last year, but I can taste gold now," Fabbian said.
"I'm ready to go after it. I've got the same mind set as last year. Hopefully I can pull it out."
Clovis North's Vince Rodriguez and Clovis West's Chris Martinez each pulled off a sensational victory to reach the 125-pound semifinals.
Rodriguez took out state top-ranked Jesse Delgado of Gilroy, a defending champion at 112 pounds, 13-7, shortly after Martinez used a last-second takedown to defeat Oscar Lizarraga of Brawley 3-1.
"That kid was small and stocky," Martinez said. "It was hard to get in on him, but I got one when it counted. I knew he didn't have much offense. So I was just waiting for the right time to shoot. I'm ready for tomorrow."
Five other former state medalists secured another Friday night: Clovis West's Zach Zimmer (119), Buchanan's Damien Arredondo (130), Lemoore's Nick Sierra, Bakersfield's Bryce Hammond and Madera's James Cook.
Zimmer, who was second at 103 in 2008 and fourth at 112 last season, scored a pin and two technical falls en route to his spot against Poway's Gabe Brown in the semifinals.
"Everything is falling into place," Zimmer said. "I've got to take care of my next match, then go after that state title."
Sierra, who injury defaulted to sixth at 140 last year, advanced with a pin and two decisions decided by at least nine points.
"I felt a little sluggish at the end," Sierra said. "It was mostly because I was trying to maintain my weight. Tomorrow, you'll see a whole new Nick Sierra."
Sierra and Lemoore are still in the team hunt as well, at sixth place with 55 points. Joining Sierra in the semifinals is teammate Dillon Rocha at 103, and three others alive in the consolation bracket.
The section has 26 wrestlers in contention for a third- through eighth-place medal in the consolation bracket.