Clovis News: Sports

Sneak preview: State Wrestling Championships

Previews of the top teams for this weekend's CIF State Wrestling Championships, using final rankings from thecalifornia

No. 1 Bakersfield

The defending state champion Drillers have been labeled the favorite by the state's leading authority on high school wrestling despite having four fewer qualifiers than Clovis, and losses the past two weekends to the Cougars. The conventional logic is that Bakersfield's top-end wrestlers will make deeper runs in the tournament than Clovis'. The Drillers feature two top-ranked wrestlers in defending 160-pound champion Bryce Hammond and 130-pounder Natrelle Demison, who was fifth at state last season. Coleman Hammond was No. 1 at 145 pounds until two weekends ago, when he suffered the first of two straight losses to Buchanan's Damien Arredondo and dropped to No. 3. Timmy Box is ranked third at 135, while Ian Nickell (112) and Adam Fierro (152) are ranked fourth.

No. 2 Clovis

No team in the tournament can match the Cougars' complete contingent of 14 wrestlers, which is why this is viewed as a two-horse race for the title. But Clovis took a tournament-best 12 wrestlers last season and finished third behind Bakersfield (with 11 qualifiers) and Selma (with five), so numbers alone don't bring home titles. Quality wrestlers do, however, and the Cougars have a strong core in top-ranked 285-pound freshman sensation Nick Nevills, Daniel Gaytan (No. 2 at 119) and Zach Nevills (No. 3 at 171). The Cougars have four other strong medal contenders in Dakota Gordon (No. 4 at 189), Brady Bersano (No. 7 at 140) and Adrian Salas (No. 8 at 160). But it's Clovis' other eight qualifiers who likely will make or break its chances, with Jonas Gaytan (No. 10 at 112) and Taylor Ferguson (No. 12 at 215) each capable of outperforming their rankings. Clovis also takes Andy Ia (honorable mention at 103), Matthew Gay (No. 11 at 125), Juan Salas (No. 11 at 130), Jason Ladd (No. 16 at 135), Colby Thompson (honorable mention at 145) and Blake Thompson (No. 10 at 152) in its quest to add to its record of eight state titles.

No. 3 Selma

The Bears, who have finished second at state the past two years, have more projected state finalists than any team other in the tournament in Alex Cisneros (No. 1 at 125), Nick Pena (No. 2 at 130) and Justin Lozano (No. 2 at 171). Cisneros and Pena are defending state champions, at 112 and 130 pounds, respectively, while Lozano was fifth at 160 last season. The junior Cisneros is seeking his third straight state title, having also won gold at 103 pounds as a freshman, while Pena is trying to become one of the state's four-time medalists, of which there have only been 20 heading into this year's event. The Bears also have more depth this season with eight qualifiers, including No. 11 112-pounder Lupe Florez, No. 11 140-pounder Rico Aguilar and No. 14 145-pounder Isiah Morfin. Selma needs unranked Johnny Pena (103) and Justin Cortez (215) to pull a few surprises to contend for the top spot.

No. 4 De La Salle-Concord

North Coast Section power brings nine qualifiers to the state meet, the highest regarded being No. 2 Lucas Sheridan at 189 pounds and No. 5 Alex Abono at 140.

No. 5 Clovis West

The Golden Eagles figure to improve on an eighth-place finish last year behind a six-man group led by state No. 1s Stevan Knoblauch at 119 and Nikko Reyes at 171. Both have been on the state medal stand before, with Knoblauch a runner-up at 103 in 2009. Reyes was third at 160 last season. Clovis West has one other projected medalist in sixth-ranked 103-pounder Brandon Rodriguez. Clovis West also travels to Bakersfield with potential point producers in Michael Knoblauch (honorable mention at 112), Tyler Zimmer (No. 19 at 130) and Chris Garcia (unranked at 125).

No. 6 Oakdale

Sac-Joaquin Section champs have nine wrestlers in the tournament, including five ranked among the top eight, led by No. 4 215-pounder A.C. Brown. There would likely need to be someone to make an unexpected run to the final to finish any higher.

No. 7 Gilroy

Perennial contender from the Central Coast Section brings seven qualifiers to Bakersfield, including No. 4 140-pounder Blake Kastl. Like Oakdale, Gilroy doesn't appear to have the firepower to match its sixth-place showing from last year.

No. 8 Lemoore

After finishing fourth last season behind 152-pound winner Nick Sierra, Tigers appear to have another potential state champ in top-ranked 140-pounder Isaiah Martinez. Martinez made his high school debut last season by placing third at 125 pounds. Lemoore also has potential medalists in Steven Wood (No. 5 at 285) and Jacob Pendleton (No. 8 at 171), who was sixth in the state at 160 pounds last year. The Tigers also bring Sean Williams (honorable mention at 103), Silverio Esparza (No. 18 at 119), Dillon Rocha (No. 12 at 125) and Nate Lopez (honorable mention at 189) to Bakersfield as they seek a fourth straight top 10 finish.

No. 9 Calvary Chapel-Santa Ana

Southern Section school will finish in the top 10 on the strength of defending 189-pound champion Morgan McIntosh and defending 215-pound champ Tank Knowles. Both are top ranked at the same weight classes this season.

No. 10 Poway

San Diego Section power has eight qualifiers, but only one ranked among the state's top eight in No. 2 215-pounder Porfirio Sosa. Streak of 15 straight top-five finishes likely to end.

Related stories from Fresno Bee