Valley wrestlers dominate at state championships
Before he achieved historic greatness at the pinnacle of California prep wrestling Saturday, Clovis heavyweight Seth Nevills put his fourth CIF wrestling championship on the line by putting his own back on the mat.
After taking down Vacaville’s Jake Levengood in the opening seconds, Nevills applied pressure, locked onto Levengood’s arm with both hands, and whipped Levengood on top of him, leaving his own back exposed while elevating Levengood’s left leg with his right foot.
The carefully executed maneuver, rarely seen in a weight class where pin-falls are as common as the cold, earned Nevills back points and set up a pinning combination that would unveil gold medal No. 4 at Rabobank Arena.
“(The tilt) wasn’t exactly what I would have done,” Clovis coach Adam Tirapelle admitted. “He got the (near-fall) count, but even when he got the first takedown I could just tell, ‘OK, he’s loose, he’s moving, he’ll be fine.’
“He feels comfortable with the things he can do.”
Only three CIF wrestlers, including Nevills’ 2017 teammate Justin Mejia, have won four state titles in the meet’s 46-year history.
“You can’t let the anxiety get to you,” Nevills said after his conquest. “You have to wait for your time to go out there and get it done.
“I have wanted it since my freshman year.”
Nevills, ranked third in the nation by Intermat, ends his prep campaign a remarkable 169-1. His only loss was against national No. 2 Cohlton Schultz of Colorado in this year’s Doc Buchanan Invitational final.
Seth and older brothers Zach, Nick, and AJ have now won nine state championships between them. Seth is committed to joining Nick next year at Penn State.
Clovis, 13-time team champions, finished fifth in team scoring with 121.5 points. Clovis hasn’t finished outside the top five in CIF scoring since 2006.
“We’ve always been about wrestling and competing at the best of your ability, and I’m as proud of this fifth as some of our firsts,” Tirapelle said. “I think we did as good as we could do.”
The Cougars amassed six individual medals. Sophomore Justin Mouritsen (106) and junior Jacob Good (195) placed fourth while sophomore Giano Petrucelli finished fifth at 113.
Max Anderson (152) and Tyler Gianakopulos (170) both guaranteed a state medal by winning narrow decisions to reach the consolation quarterfinals before losing a match. Anderson took eighth. Gianakopulos, who entered the tournament unseeded, lost his first match and needed five consecutive victories to reach the medal round. He ultimately won his last match and placed seventh.
Figueroa highlights Selma run
Selma freshman Richard Figueroa (106) beat returning state champion Jonathan Prata of Downey 7-3 in the tournament semifinals and preserved his perfect record against California foes by beating freshman Carlos Negrete of Clovis North 6-1 in the gold medal match.
“I have wrestled in a lot of national tournaments under the spotlight, so I’m kind of used to it,” Figueroa said after receiving his medal. “It feels amazing.”
Figueroa joins his sister, Gracie Figueroa, atop the CIF medal podium. Gracie won her fourth straight CIF title last week.
Selma senior Tony Mendoza capped a brilliant prep career with his fourth trek to the state tournament and his third medal, this one silver. He dropped a 3-2 decision to Peyton Omania of De La Salle-Concord in the bracket finale.
Selma brought 12 competitors to the state meet and eight of them won medals. The Bears scored 168 team points in fourth place.
Junior Christian Rodriguez (170) rebounded from an early defeat to win the remainder of his matches and place third. Sophomore Tristan Lujan (113) and junior Jace Luchau (152) finished fourth while senior Oscar Diaz (160) placed fifth. Senior Luis Ramos was eighth at 138.
Runners-up pace Clovis North finish
In the 126 finals, freshmen Ryan Franco of Clovis North hung tough with Cleveland Belton of St. John Bosco-Bellflower, but dropped a 3-2 decision to finish runner-up, joining teammate Negrete in taking home a silver.
Clovis North was sixth in the team standings with 119 points. Four of nine qualifiers medaled. Sparring partners Devin Murphy (sophomore) and Lajon Grier (senior) both won their medal matches to finish third and fifth, respectively.
▪ Jaden Abas of Rancho Bernardo-San Diego won the 138 championship. He’s the son of former Fresno State standout Gerry Abas.
▪ The two-day attendance total was 19,010.
▪ CIF executive director Roger Blake told The Bakersfield Californian that the state girls meet is joining the boys meet in Bakersfield starting next season. The winter sports season is moving up a week, so the joint state meet will be Feb. 21-23 at Rabobank.
The girls meet had been held at the Visalia Convention Center, where Selma wrapped up its third straight state title last week.