BAKERSFIELD – Never in 38 previous CIF State Wrestling Championships have two teams virtually lapped the field the way Clovis and Bakersfield highs did this weekend at Rabobank Arena.
And it's been 12 years since the team title was decided during the finals, which is when the No. 7-nationally ranked Cougars finally pulled away from the No. 8 in the nation Drillers 186-177 for their state-record ninth team title Saturday.
Selma was third (100), Lemoore fifth (76), Clovis West seventh (65) and Porterville ninth (61.5) as the Central Section had six of the top nine teams.
Daniel Gaytan provided the clinching points in a 6-3 win over Clovis West's Stevan Knoblauch in the 119-pound final and Nick Nevills put the icing on the cake when he beat Mira Mesa's Gabi Musallam 5-0 for the 285-pound title. They were two of a school-record nine medalists as the Cougars finished with the second highest point total in tournament history.
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"We had an 'A' tournament," Clovis coach Steve Tirapelle said. "This was an outstanding competition between two great teams. It's an honor to come out on top. This was such a team effort."
Clovis, which qualified its complete complement of 14 wrestlers, saw nine earn medals and every one win at least one match, unlike last season when seven of the Cougars' tournament-best 12 qualifiers combined for one point. Bakersfield had eight medalists out of its 10 qualifiers.
The bout that swung momentum in Clovis' favor came in the third-place match between Zach Nevills and Bakersfield's Silas Nacita. Nevills hung on for a hard-fought 6-5 win that put Clovis ahead 178-173 heading into the finals. The Cougars would have been clinging to a one-point lead, or worse, if Nacita had won.
"I'm a team leader, and if I don't win, my team doesn't win," Nevills said. "That's what my team expects of me: to pull out those matches so we can be state champions."
Bakersfield could have passed the Cougars had they lost both their finals coupled with a pin from Driller Bryce Hammond in the 160-pound final.
But Gaytan's win made Clovis' lead insurmountable.
"I'm really proud of my team," Gaytan said. "We worked so hard for this."
Nick Nevills broke down just how hard the Cougars worked, pointing out they had 332.5 hours of practice over 214 days this season.
Clovis' other medalists were Jonas Gaytan (fifth at 112), Blake Thompson (fifth at 152), Brady Bersano (sixth at 140), Adrian Salas (sixth at 160), Taylor Ferguson (sixth at 215) and Dakota Gordon (seventh at 189), while Andy Ia (103), Matt Gay (125), Juan Salas (130), Jason Ladd (135) and Colby Thompson (145) all scored points before bowing out.