Justin Mejia is the Fresno Bee Co-Wrestler of the Year
CO-WRESTLERS OF THE YEAR
Weight class: 126
He’s qualified because: The state top- and national No. 4-ranked Mejia became only the second four-time champion in the 45-year history of the CIF State tournament with a 3-2 decision over state No. 3 and national No. 11 Robert Garcia IV of Selma in the 126-pound final. Mejia was the fourth all-time to go into his last match with a shot at becoming a four-time champ, joined Bakersfield’s Darrell Vasquez (1999-2002) in the exclusive champions club, and finished 38-0 with nine pins. After a concussion and injury-defaulting to fifth place at his first tournament of the season, the Newbury Park Invitational, Mejia missed a month before returning to win the Doc Buchanan Invitational, beating state No. 2 and national No. 12 Isaiah Perez 12-2 in the semifinals and state No. 4 and national No. 9 Jaden Abas of Rancho Bernardo 6-0 in the final. Mejia went on to go 4-0 at the New Jersey Duals, and to win the Mission San Jose, Tri-River Athletic Conference, Yosemite Divisional and Central Section Masters tournaments. Mejia conquered arguably the toughest weight class in the state, with three other nationally ranked competitors and another six past state medalists. “I knew the toughest kids were at 126, and I wanted to prove I could beat them,” Mejia said.
Unmatched career: While following a similar path as Vasquez (who won at 103, 112, 119 and 125), Mejia (106, 119, 120 and 126) achieved a better career winning percentage. Vasquez went 200-7; Mejia finished 168-1. Mejia went 49-1 as a freshman, avenging the only loss with a 5-3 victory over Santiago-Corona’s Chris Lacayo in the 106 final. As a sophomore, Mejia was 44-0, capped by a 1-0 decision over Mission Oak’s David Campbell at 113. And as a junior, Mejia pinned Abas, then of Frontier, in 3:35 of the 120 final to finish a 38-0 season interrupted for three weeks with a strained MCL suffered at the Doc Buchanan. Mejia compiled 89 pins, 20 technical falls and 17 major decisions, giving him bonus points in 123 of 169 career matches for Clovis, which he lead to state team titles in 2014 and 2015, and runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017. Mejia was The Bee’s Wrestler of the Year following his sophomore and junior seasons as well.
The next step: Mejia has signed with Illinois, where he will join with former Lemoore High star Isaiah Martinez, a two-time NCAA champion and three-time finalist at the NCAA Championships. Mejia initially committed to childhood dream destination Iowa prior to his sophomore season, but decomitted in July 2016, saying at the time that “sometimes things don’t work out.” Mejia decided on Illinois in September and officially signed in November.
Motivational force: Mejia began his career at Clovis as a highly touted freshman in 2014. But in his first tournament, he lost 3-0 to Santiago-Corona’s Chris Lacayo in the 106-pound final of the Zinkin Classic. It would be the only time Mejia failed to score a point in a match during his high school career. He eventually avenged that loss in the state final. “I was so pissed,” Mejia said. “I couldn’t see how it was possible for that kid to beat me. I knew after that, it was a different monster coming out of me. I didn’t want to feel that feeling again, and it drove me to where I am today.”
He said it: “Justin had an incredible career. He did things that are unbelievable. He competed in probably the toughest weight class in the state this season and proved he’s not only the best at that weight, but he’s the best high school wrestler in the history of California at this time. And he’s not just an incredible competitor. He’s a great leader. When you need a major, or a tech or a fall, he’ll go out and get it. He’s a team kid, not just a me guy.” – Clovis coach Steve Tirapelle.
The last word: “I’m super excited I did it and so thankful to God. If you want to be the best, that’s what your mentality has to be. There are always other reasons I could take the easy way out and lose, but that’s not me. I go out there every time thinking I’m going to win. Even if it doesn’t look good, I still won.” – Justin Mejia
Weight class: 285
He’s qualified because: When the state top-ranked and national No. 2 Nevills pinned Delhi’s state No. 3 Jesus Flores in 59 seconds during the 285-pound final, he became only the 23rd three-time champ in the 45-year history of the CIF State Wrestling Championships. It capped arguably the most dominating season in California wrestling history: 37-0, all by pin. Nevills’ pin of Flores was the only fall among the 14 state finals on the elevated stage at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena. Nevills’ season featured titles at the Clovis West Shootout, Zinkin Classic, Doc Buchanan Invitational, Mission San Jose tournament, Tri-River Athletic Conference championships, the Yosemite Divisionals and the Central Section Masters.
Career résumé: Nevills is undefeated in his three-year varsity career at 127-0 after going 44-0 as a freshman and 46-0 as a sophomore. Nevills pinned Bullard’s Bevan Brandt in 3:00 in the 220 state final in 2015, becoming the 13th freshman to capture a title and second heaviest freshman champ all-time behind older brother Nick, who won the 285 title in 2011. Seth Nevills beat Christian Rebottaro of Monte Vista Christian-Watsonville 7-4 in the 285-pound state final in 2016.
Family tradition: Seth is the fourth son of Wayne and Kerri Nevills to capture a CIF State wrestling title, following Zach (a four-time medalist who won the 170-pound title in 2012), Nick (a four-time medalist who also won titles at 285 in 2013 and 2104) and AJ (a three-time medalist who won at 195 in 2016). Only the Tirapelle brothers – Adam, Alex and Troy – have combined for as many as the Nevills’ eight state titles.
The future: Nevills will open his senior season with a chance to do what only Bakersfield’s Darrell Vasquez (1999-2002) and Clovis teammate Justin Mejia (2014-2017) have done in the 45-year history of the state tournament: win four titles. Only his brother has won the state heavyweight title more than twice. Nevills recently committed to Penn State, following in the NCAA Division I footsteps of his three older brothers. Eldest brother, Zach, just completed his senior season as an NCAA tournament qualifier at Stanford, Nick won a fifth-place medal at 285 as a sophomore at Penn State and AJ recently announced he’s going to attend Fresno State after initially signing with Penn State and spending the past year in State College as a grayshirt.
He said it: “To pin your way through the year, not just the state meet but the year, is incredible. He just makes the other kids look like they’ve never competed before. They can be top quality kids, and Seth makes them look like they are just beginning because he’s strong, has great feel for the sport, can adjust well, he’s tough on his feet, he can score from neutral, and on top, he’s a monster. They can’t get away from him. He’s a blue-chip kid. He’s a guy that if (a college) wants him, they’ll offer a full ride.” – Clovis coach Steve Tirapelle.
The last word: “Winning No. 3 was awesome. It’s something I’ve been wanting for awhile. And now, No. 4 is the goal. I have to have the same mindset next year. You have to keep working hard and don’t let up, because there are other people out there working hard, too. You can’t slow down.” – Seth Nevills
CO- OUTSTANDING UPPER WEIGHTS
Weight class: 182
He’s qualified because: In his third trip to the CIF State Championships, the nationally No. 17-ranked Montalvo improved on a runner-up finish in 2016 by defeating Oakdale’s Colbey Harlan 5-3 in the 182-pound final. With four pins and a major decision en route, Montalvo was the top point producer (35) as Buchanan won its second straight team title. Montalvo’s only loss in a 51-1 season came at the Clash XV in Minnesota. He won titles at eight tournaments, including the Zinkin Classic, Doc Buchanan Invitational and Central Section Masters.
Weight class: 220
He’s qualified because: The nationally No. 16-ranked Belshay concluded a 50-1 season without a loss to California opposition with a 7-5 decision over De La Salle-Concord’s Darryl Aiello in the 220-pound final, helping Buchanan win a second straight team title. With three pins and a technical fell en route to the final, Belshay was the Bears’ second-leading point producer (33.5). He won seven other tournaments, including the Zinkin Classic, CIT Morro Bay and the Central Section Masters. Belshay has signed with Penn, where he will wrestle for Buchanan coach Troy Tirapelle’s brother Alex.
CO-OUTSTANDING LOWER WEIGHTS
Weight class: 132
He’s qualified because: Joint became the seventh Lemoore wrestler to capture a CIF State title when he beat Frontier’s Elijah Ozuna 3-0, capping a 48-7 season. Joint improved on his third at 126 in 2016, his first season in California after moving from Junction City, Kan., where he was a two-time state 6A/5A runner-up. Joint, who has signed with Fresno State, went 180-16 in four varsity seasons. He was second at the Reno TOC and won four other tournaments, including the Five Counties and CIT Morro Bay.
School: Mission Oak
Weight class: 138
He’s qualified because: Bounced back from an elbow injury that wiped out his postseason as a junior to capture the CIF State title. The state top- and nationally No. 17-ranked Enriquez capped a 45-2 season and 178-18 career with a 16-6 major decision over Rancho Buena Vista’s Bernie Truax for his third state medal. The Michigan State recruit placed second at 132 as a sophomore and fourth as a freshman. He won six tournaments, including the Five Counties Invitational, Mission San Jose and Central Section Masters.
COACH OF THE YEAR
He’s qualified because: With four medalists among nine qualifiers, Lopez’s Bears placed fourth at the CIF State Championships with 108 points, finishing behind Buchanan (213.5), Clovis (189) and Poway (142), all schools with roughly 1,000 more students than Selma, which entered the 45th annual event ranked 10th. The Bears’ four medalists outperformed their ranking: Robert Garcia IV, ranked No. 3, placed second at 126; Tony Mendoza, ranked No. 8, placed third at 138; Oscar Diaz, ranked No. 8, placed seventh at 160; and Christian Rodriguez, ranked No. 8, placed fifth at 170. Selma won the Sierra/Sequoia Division under Lopez, a former Fresno State wrestler who was The Bee’s Coach of The Year in 2009.
THE BEE’S FAB 35
Giano Petrucelli, freshman, 106, Clovis
Tristan Lujan, freshman, 106, Selma
Matt Olguin, sophomore, 113, Buchanan
Devin Murphy, freshman, 113, Clovis North
Brandon Paulson, sophomore, 113, Clovis
Anthony Pacheco, senior, 113, Sanger
Ethan Leake, junior, 120, Buchanan
Wyatt Cornelison, senior, 120, Clovis
Robert Garcia IV, senior, 126, Selma
Isaiah Perez, senior, 126, Dinuba
Dawson Sihavong, sophomore, 126, Bullard
Tyler Deen, sophomore, 126, Buchanan
Chris Deloza, senior, 132, Clovis North
Tony Mendoza, junior, 138, Selma
Joe Romero, junior, 138, Lemoore
Brett Villarreal, junior, 138, Buchanan
Jacob Wright, senior, 145, Dinuba
Tristan Zamilpa, junior, 145, Buchanan
Jace Luchau, sophomore, 152, Selma
Tyler Gianakopulos, freshman, 152, Clovis
Brandon Martino, senior, 160, Clovis
Joel Romero, junior, 160, Buchanan
Oscar Diaz, junior, 160, Selma
Christian Rodriguez, sophomore, 170, Selma
Victor Vargas, senior, 170, Clovis
Angel Solis, senior, 182, Lemoore
Ryan Reyes, sophomore, 195, Clovis West
Trevor Ervin, junior, 195, Buchanan
Ruger Wyneken, senior, 195, Clovis
John Halajian, senior, 220, Clovis North
Kobe Rosas, senior, 220, Coalinga
Noah Wright, senior, 285, Lemoore
Isaiah Ortiz, senior, 285, Buchanan
Nathaniel Holloway, senior, 285, Clovis North
Armando Barcenas, senior, 285, Hanford