BAKERSFIELD – Paul Fox and Nikko Villarreal have led Gilroy High’s wrestling team all season.
So it made sense Friday when the juniors reached the semifinals of the California Interscholastic Federation state meet at Rabobank Arena.
Fox won his 132-pound quarterfinal with a second-period pin, and Villarreal won his 138-pound quarterfinal with a 3-2 decision. The duo advanced to Saturday morning’s semifinals, with the finals set to begin at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s going to take the best from both wrestlers right now,” Gilroy coach Greg Varela said.
Fox pinned Frontier’s Izaiah Ozuna in 3 minutes, 20 seconds in the quarterfinals, and will wrestle Kingsburg’s Javier Gasca III in the semifinals Saturday morning. Fox went 4-0 with two pins Friday.
“First of all, to start with Fox, this is the best I’ve seen him wrestle all year,” Varela said. “This is the best I’ve seen him wrestle since last year’s state meet. It’s above and beyond what he’s done all year. I’m really proud of him.”
Villarreal used a highlight-worthy takedown in the third period to take a 3-1 lead on Porterville’s Martin Sandoval, and he held on for a 3-2 win.
“I was tied. You have to score,” Villarreal said of the takedown, which he began by tripping Sandoval. “I don’t like going to overtime. It’s just more energy you have to waste. He gave me his leg, (and) I took advantage of it.”
Villarreal will wrestle Santiago’s Mike Longo in the semifinals Saturday morning.
Villarreal, who won a state title at 132 last season, reached the quarterfinals with a tense 2-1 decision over Rowland’s Mario Lopez.
“Nikko, he’s really having to adjust to being the hunted,” Varela said. “Every single year at state, he’s been the wild underdog, and here, now he’s the hunted. And guys are trying to keep it close and back away and not try to wrestle him.
“He’s done a good job. People are saying the scores are close. Yeah, they’re close, but they’re not really trying to wrestle him. But he’s dealing with it. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. … I like the way he’s adjusting.”
Gilroy sophomore Jesse Vasquez (113) went 2-2 in the tournament, and was eliminated when he lost a 3-0 decision to Clovis East’s Joseph Jauregui.
Mustangs junior Victor Olmos (126) went 2-2 in the meet, and was eliminated when he dropped a 5-3 decision to Frontier’s Vincent Gomez.
Gilroy 170-pounder Mark Penyacsek was eliminated in the consolation bracket when he lost 3-2 in double overtime to Los Alamitos’ Max Kumashiro, who used a late escape to clinch the victory.
Penyacsek went 1-2 in the tournament.
“He wrestled with a lot of heart. I’m proud of him, and I’m looking forward to next year,” Varela said.
Christopher 106-pounder Jimmie Lopez saw his stellar season end when the junior was pinned in the first period of a consolation match by Clovis’ Julian Gaytan.
“I’m proud of the way he wrestled,” Cougars coach Alecxis Lara said of Lopez, a repeat Central Coast Section champion. “He came off with another section title. There’s just no hiding from anyone at this tournament. Everybody’s tough, and there’s no good draws.
“He had a tough weight class, a tough quarterfinal bracket, and he did his best. I’m proud of him the way he wrestled.”
Lopez went 1-2 in the tournament.
“Two years’ (state) experience now, he should be ready to go for next year,” Lara said.
LIVE OAK AND SOBRATO
BAKERSFIELD – Isaiah Locsin has been given the nickname “Ice” by his Live Oak High wrestling teammates and coaches.
The junior 120-pounder was plenty cool on the mat Friday.
Locsin pinned Elsinore’s Dustin Kirk in 1 minute, 46 seconds in a 120-pound quarterfinal of the California Interscholastic Federation state meet at Rabobank Arena.
“I feel great, and I’m just going to keep on going after it, and keep on working hard and try to get the gold,” Locsin said.
Locsin won a state title at 113 last season, and he’s two wins away from the 120-pound championship this season.
Locsin went 4-0 with three pins Friday, winning twice by fall in the first period.
“He’s just wrestling incredible today,” Live Oak co-coach Armando Gonzalez said. “He’s wrestling the best tournament of his year at the right time of the year. He’s peaking, and just really focused and confident.
“He got healthy, he got strong and confident, and that’s what wrestling is. Most of wrestling is a mindset, and Isaiah’s mind is focused now. He’s very confident in what he’s going to do.”
Locsin will wrestle North Torrance’s Jordan Gurrola, an upset winner over Clovis’ Jonas Gaytan, in the semifinals Saturday morning. The finals are scheduled to begin at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
“(Gurrola) is about 6-foot-1. He’s very tall and rangy, (so) it’s just a different feel,” Gonzalez said. “We have to figure out how to wrestle a guy of that stature now.”
Sobrato 160-pounder Brandon LeFore was the first Bulldog to reach state since 2007, but the junior was eliminated when he lost a 9-2 decision to Elsinore’s Ruben Avila in the consolation bracket.
BAKERSFIELD – San Benito High wrestler Robb Rodriguez didn’t win a championship at the California Interscholastic Federation state meet, but the 132-pound senior came away with an experience to remember.
Rodriguez went 1-2 in the CIF state meet Friday at Rabobank Arena, and was eliminated when he lost a 12-3 major decision to Merced’s Mark Taijeron in the consolation bracket.
Rodriguez was pinned by Poway’s Ralphy Tovar in the third period of his first contested match, but came back to win a 5-4 decision over Glendora’s Thomas Tello in a consolation bout to keep his season alive.
“It’s pretty gratifying for him,” Balers coach Brian DeCarli said of the state experience. “This is the first time he’s been able to get here. He deserves to be here, especially because he’s worked for so long and so hard.”