High School Sports

CIF State Wrestling: Clovis duo out to make historic mark

Clovis junior Justin Mejia, top, can become the fourth wrestler in the history of the CIF State Wrestling Championships to win titles in his first three high school seasons with a successful run through the 120-pound bracket.
Clovis junior Justin Mejia, top, can become the fourth wrestler in the history of the CIF State Wrestling Championships to win titles in his first three high school seasons with a successful run through the 120-pound bracket. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Clovis High’s Justin Mejia and Seth Nevills are in position to join rare company and cap undefeated seasons, this weekend at the CIF State Wrestling Championships.

Mejia, one of six Central Section wrestlers who enter top-ranked by The California Wrestler website, can become only the fourth competitor in the event’s 44-year history to win titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior with a successful run through the 120-pound bracket Friday and Saturday at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.

Mejia was the 106-pound champion as a freshman in 2013 and the 113-pound champ last season as a sophomore. The others to win titles in each of their first three seasons were Independence-San Jose’s Jacob Palomino, Bakersfield’s Darrell Vasquez and Selma’s Alex Cisneros. Only Vasquez became a four-time champion.

“He’s quite the competitor. I haven’t seen too many people like Justin in my career, and I’ve had an extensive career with a lot of quality kids,” Cougars coach Steve Tirapelle said. “He’s right up there with any of them in competitiveness and drive to win.

“But (winning three straight titles is) tough to do. “Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, he’ll win for sure.’ But there are a lot of good kids in that weight class. He could also get hurt, or sick, or have a call that’s questionable.”

Mejia improved to 32-0 on the season with a 16-4 major decision over state No. 5 Jaden Abas of Frontier.

“I’m pretty comfortable and confident going into state,” said Mejia, who would join 22 previous three-time champions (including those who did not win during their first three years of high school but won three during that four-year span) with another title.

Nevills (41-0) seeks to become the seventh wrestler in California history to win titles during his freshman and sophomore seasons after becoming the second-heaviest freshman state champion last year when he won at 220. Only older brother Nick Nevills, a 285-pounder, was a heavier freshman champ.

Nevills will look to avoid the same pitfall that befell Nick as a sophomore, when the top-ranked and heavy favorite suffered a late takedown against Foothill’s Michael Lowman for a stunning 4-3 semifinal loss. Nick Nevills would go on to take third, then win titles again as a junior and senior.

“We talk about it,” Tirapelle said. “I remind him continually that you are one throw from getting beat. It can happen in 10 seconds. You’ve got to be conscious that at any point. It can happen.”

“But Seth has a great shot to win. Out of our four (No. 1-ranked wrestlers), he’s probably got the best shot.”

Clovis, the top-ranked team in the state and aiming for a sixth straight title, also features No. 1-ranked individuals in Josh Hokit (182) and AJ Nevills (195), both state runners-up last season.

Career capper – Buchanan’s Durbin Lloren will be out to add a second state title to his wrestling résumé before heading to NCAA Division I Utah Valley next season.

Lloren, who won the 120-pound title last season, enters the state meet top-ranked at 132. If he captures gold, Lloren would join the list of 69 two-time champs and 37 four-time medalists. He finished fifth at 113 pounds as a sophomore and fifth at 106 as a freshman.

“He understands very vividly what his goal is,” Bears coach Troy Tirapelle said. “There is no such thing as a for-sure champion, but he’s as much of a lock as anyone at any weight. That’s how good he is and how much I feel he has separated himself from the pack.”

The new guy – Top-ranked 126-pounder Gary Joint has a legitimate shot at becoming Lemoore’s seventh state wrestling champion.

And Tigers coach Marcio Botelho said his school’s last state champion, Isaiah Martinez in 2013, is to thank for Joint’s transfer from Junction City, Kansas, where he was a two-time 5A/6A state runner-up.

Joint’s father, Kevin, was working on an oil rig in Coalinga last year when he decided to move his family to California after learning NCAA 157-pound wrestling champion Martinez was from Lemoore.

“His dad was watching the NCAAs and when they mentioned Isaiah was from Lemoore, California, he said, ‘Hey, that’s where I’m at. And that’s where I want to take my kids.’ ” Botelho said. “Isaiah continues to help me even when he’s gone.”

So Kevin moved Gary, wife Melissa and sixth-grade son Wayne with him to Lemoore, where Gary has rolled into the state meet after winning the West Yosemite League, Yosemite Divisionals and Masters the past three weeks. Joint is 50-3 on the season.

“Every week it seems like he’s getting better and better,” Botelho said. “He’s definitely wrestling at a high level now, when it counts. He’s going in as a kid who can definitely win it, and at a very tough weight class.”

First-timers – Strathmore’s Seth Garcia is believed to be the first state qualifier in school history after placing 10th at 138 pounds at Masters.

The Spartans’ wrestling program is in its fourth season back after being disbanded in 1983.

Three other sections schools have their first state qualifiers: Garces 182-pounder Isaiah Martin, Bakersfield Christian 285-pounder Brett Schuler and Independence’s Peter Corona (126), Esteban Corona (138) and Bubba Varela (285).

Nick Giannandrea: 559-441-6103, @NickG_FB

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