High School Sports

CIF State Wrestling Championships: Buchanan ends Clovis’ 5-year reign

There is a new king of California wrestling.

And the championship party started hours before any of its six finalists took the elevated stage at Rabobank Arena.

Buchanan High clinched its second CIF State Wrestling Championships team title during the consolation medal round, ending the record-establishing five-year title run by rival Clovis.

The Bears, who captured their first state title in 2006, finished with 274.5 points, the second highest score in the 44-year history of the state meet heading into the finals. Clovis, which scored 276.5 last season, was running second with 232.5.

“When the competition got better, we showed who the better team was,” fifth-year Buchanan coach Troy Tirapelle said. “We just needed better people around us to not cancel our kids’ points.

“Our older kids set the standard. Your seniors need to handle business to win an event like this, and they handled business.”

Buchanan produced a state record-tying 10 medalists, led by underdog champions Matt Olguin (106), Ethan Leake (113) and Zakary Levatino (220), who all beat higher ranked wrestlers in the finals.

Levatino, a senior ranked 11th in the state, beat Ponderosa-Shingle Springs’ No. 3 Kyle Jennings 4-3 to cap a 51-8 season.

“All heart. I knew I was No. 1 all along,” Levatino said. “I work 10 times harder than other kids and it showed this weekend.”

No. 2-ranked freshman Olguin (41-4) followed in a finals session that started at 182 pounds and ended at 170 with an 11-4 victory over Gilroy’s top-ranked Nicolas Aguilar, avenging two previous head-to-head defeats.

“I knew he’d be tough, but I knew this time I had him,” Olguin said. “I felt it. The last two times, I wasn’t moving as much. This time I did and it got my offense going.”

Leake, a No. 3-ranked sophomore, capped Buchanan’s scoring when he pinned Servite-Anaheim’s Liam Cronin in 1:05.

“I was confident, had a game plan and now I’m a state champion,” said Leake, who finished 42-9. “I feel amazing. I wanted to end this season with a bang. I’m so glad I can be a part of such an amazing team and program.”

The Bears had two chances to eclipse the team scoring record, but state top-ranked Durbin Lloren (42-2) dropped a 3-2 decision to Helix Charter-La Mesa’s No. 4 Trence Gillem at 132, and No. 2 Abner Romero (42-3) suffered a take down at the third-period buzzer to force overtime and eventually lost 5-3 decision to No. 1 Justin Thomas of Calvary Chapel-Santa Ana.

Lloren, the 120 champ last season, had beaten Gillem 3-1 earlier this season.

Buchanan’s sixth finalist, Anthony Montalvo, lost at 182 to finish 36-5.

Brett Villarreal (fourth at 126), Joel Romero (third at 138), Greg Gaxiola (fourth at 145) and Cade Belshay (fifth at 170) also medaled for Buchanan, which saw its 13 state qualifiers go a combined 61-16 with bonus points in 34 matches.

“This is what we’ve been training for,” Joel Romero said. “Everything I did wasn’t for me; it was for the team. This is amazing.”

Buchanan had finished ahead of Clovis at five events this season (the Zinkin Classic, Doc Buchanan, a Tri-River Athletic Conference dual, the TRAC finals and Yosemite Divisionals) before finishing second to the Cougars at the Central Section Masters on Feb. 27.

“That just drove us,” Joel Romero said. “That shouldn’t have happened. It made us want to whoop on them more, and we did.”

Of Buchanan’s 13 state qualifiers, nine are expected back next season.

“It’s exciting,” Tirapelle said. “And hopefully there are many more to come in a row.”

Clovis had the fourth-highest point total produced at the state meet behind champions Justin Mejia (120), Josh Hokit (182), AJ Nevills (195) and Seth Nevills (285). The Cougars’ tournament-best 14 qualifiers went a combined 51-19 with bonus points in 30 matches.

Mejia pinned Frontier’s Jaden Abas in 3:36 to become the fourth wrestler in state history to win state titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Only Bakersfield’s Darrell Vasquez has won four state titles.

“I wasn’t expecting a fall, but I stayed in good position and caught him on his back,” Mejia said. “I’m so happy. I’m going to keep working hard and get one more.”

Hokit beat Montalvo 10-3, and AJ Nevills topped Poway’s Chris Bailey 6-1, both winning their first state titles after finishing last season as runner-ups at 170 and 182, respectively.

Seth Nevills became a two-time champ, and the seventh in history to win as a freshman and sophomore, with a 7-4 win over Monte Vista Christian-Watsonville’s Christian Rebottaro.

“It’s been my goal to be a four-time champ,” Seth Nevills said. “This was a milestone to get out of the way.”

Other Central Section wrestlers to win state titles were Mission Oak’s David Campbell (126) and Bakersfield’s Navonte Demison (138).

Campbell beat De La Salle’s Donovin Guerrero 6-3, while Demison pinned Dinuba’s Jacob Wright in 1:02. Campbell is the first state champ in Mission Oak history, while Wright was Dinuba’s first finalist.

“I’m excited,” said Campbell, who lost in the 113 final last year. “I had that drive to get back and win that state title.”

The section’s other finalist, Selma’s Ruben Garcia, dropped an 8-5 decision to San Marino’s Zander Wick at 145, capping a 49-2 season that saw him win his third state medal.

In all, the Central Section had 35 medalists, a 31 percent share of the total awarded among 560 competitors. The section gets 10 qualifiers for each of the 14 weight classes, or 25 percent of the field.

Nick Giannandrea: 559-441-6103, @NickG_FB



Breaking Down The Champion

Buchanan captured the school’s second state championship with 274.5 points, the second-most ever scored in the 44-year history of the state meet. Here’s how each of the Bears’ 13 qualifiers contributed.

106: Matt Olguin, 6-0, 1st, 32.5 points

113: Ethan Leake, 6-0, 1st, 31.5 points

120: Chris Gaxiola, 1-2, DNP, 1 point

126: Brett Villarreal, 6-2, 4th, 28 points

132: Durbin Lloren, 5-1, 2nd, 27 points

138: Joel Romero, 5-1, 3rd, 19 points

145: Greg Gaxiola, 7-2, 4th, 20 points

152: Jake Levatino, 2-2, DNP, 5 points

160: Abner Romero, 4-1, 2nd, 27 points

170: Cade Belshay, 6-2, 5th, 18 points

182: Anthony Montalvo, 4-1, 2nd, 27.5 points

195: Trevor Ervin, 3-2, DNP, 10 points

220: Zakary Levatino, 6-0, 1st, 28 points

285: No qualifier

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