Clovis High’s drive for five will be at full strength next weekend for the CIF State Wrestling Championships.
Individually, meanwhile, it was a mixed bag of results for the state’s marked men during the Central Section Masters on Saturday at the East High gym.
The Cougars qualified all 14 of their wrestlers and produced half of the individual champions in Justin Mejia (113 pounds), Jared Hill (145), Dominic Kincaid (160), Josh Hokit (170), AJ Nevills (182), Seth Nevills (220) and Hexton Coronado (285) while rolling to its eighth straight Masters title with 306.5 points.
Buchanan, which also advanced 14 to state, was a distant second at 224, with Bakersfield third at 147 in the final hurdle to the March 6-7 state meet at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.
Clovis will be seeking a fifth straight team title and 13th overall, both of which would extend state records.
“Winning state is not a given, but getting everyone through helps,” said the state second-ranked AJ Nevills, who beat Golden Valley’s No. 3 Julio Fuentes 8-5 in the 182-pound final. “There is competition, but as long as all 14 of us are on point and compete to the level we can, we’ll be fine.
“We have a lot of potential, probably as much as anyone in history ever. I plan on this team coming to wrestle.”
The Cougars also had three runners-up — including Khristian Olivas’ injury default at 138 while leading 5-4 against Selma’s Ruben Duran at 138 and state second-ranked Adam Prentice’s 3-2 loss to No. 1 Austin Flores of Clovis North — while no one finished lower than seventh.
“This team is capable of doing great things,” Clovis co-coach Steve Tirapelle said. “It’s all about being at that plateau at the right time. I’m pleased with where we’re at. I think we have a good shot.”
Three of the section’s state top-ranked wrestlers (Clovis’ Mejia, Buchanan’s Durbin Lloren at 120 and Clovis North’s Flores) won titles while two others (Mission Oak’s Jaden Enriquez at 132 and Selma’s Jose Alvarez at 285) were upset before the finals.
Lloren escaped any upset bids by pinning his first two opponents, getting a major decision in his semifinal and shutting out Clovis North’s state No. 7 Chris Deloza 5-0 in the final for his first Masters title.
“It’s good to get this under my belt,” Lloren said. “This postseason I’ve been feeling good, winning league, divisionals and now Masters. There’s one more tournament to check off my list.”
Mejia was equally as dominant with three falls leading up to his final, where he scored an 11-2 decision over Clovis West’s Javier Alaniz.
“I got the job done, but that’s not how I wanted to win,” Mejia, the state’s 106-pound champion last season, said of his championship match. “(Alaniz) slowed me down because he didn’t come to wrestle me. And that frustrates me, but I’ve got to get over it because that’s how everyone will wrestle me at state.”
Flores had as tough a road as anyone in the tournament, having to go through state No. 5 Peter An of Buchanan in the semifinals (11-7) before a third straight meeting, and victory, against Prentice.
On the flip side, Enriquez was upset by No. 11 Greg Gaxiola 8-3 in the semifinals and Alvarez was pinned by No. 4 Coronado in 4:30 during the quarterfinals, showing just how tough wrestling is in a section that sends 10 from every weight division to the state meet (more than any other section in California).
Enriquez and Alvarez both came back to place third.
Also, Isaiah Perez became Dinuba’s first Masters champion by pinning Buchanan’s Ethan Leake in 5:25 in the 106-pound final. Perez will look to become the Emperors’ first state medalist next weekend.
“It feels good to do things for Dinuba,” said the state No. 3-ranked sophomore, who improved to 28-0. “I just have to stay focused. I want to be the first from Dinuba to place at state.”
Other Masters champions included: Bakersfield’s JJ Figueroa (126), Selma’s Ruben Garcia (138) and Clovis East’s Joseph Jauregui (152).