No medals, but memories of a lifetime for East County wrestlers at state meet
It can be an intimidating stage with 7,000 people watching every move you make on the wrestling mat at the annual California state championship tournament.
But it can also be a rewarding stage for those in the spotlight who persevere through the adversity to come home with a coveted medal.
A total of seven East County mat men qualified for the 45th annual state tournament, held March 3-4 in Bakersfield. Though none managed to earn a spot on the awards platform, it was a journey most of them will likely not forget.
Mount Miguel senior 145-pounder Juan Ruiz and Steele Canyon senior 220-pounder Gerardo Jaime advanced the farthest in this year’s two-day tournament that featured more than 500 entrants from every corner of the Golden State.
Both wrestlers finished 2-2.
The top four place-finishers at the San Diego Section Masters state-qualifying tournament qualified to compete at this year’s state tournament.
The top eight-place finishers in their respective weight classes at the state championship meet received medals.
Ruiz, the third-place finisher at the San Diego Masters tournament, recorded a 35-second pin and 12-2 major decision for his two victories. He opened the tournament with a loss by a first-period pin to second-seeded Jacob Wright, a senior from Dinuba, who would go on to place fourth in the weight class.
Jaime, this year’s San Diego Masters champion, recorded a 6-2 decision and a 4:23 pin for his two victories at this year’s state tournament.
Jaime’s first loss was to 10th-seeded David Aranda, a junior from St. John Bosco; Jaime’s second loss was to Chester’s Tony Rogers, the sixth-seeded wrestler in the weight class.
Of the seven East County state qualifiers, five recorded at least one win on the mat.
Steele Canyon sophomore Xavier Silva, a third-place finisher at the San Diego Masters tournament, finished 1-2 with a 1:26 pin in his 152-pound weight class.
Steele Canyon sophomore David Lipscomb (160), a fourth-place finisher at the San Diego Masters, finished 1-2 in his 160-pound division with a win by an 8-0 major decision to his credit.
Lipscomb’s first loss in the tournament was to eventual division runner-up Joel Romero of Buchanan.
Helix Charter senior heavyweight Andrew Poumele, a third-place finisher at San Diego Masters, finished 1-2 with a 3:55 pin. The Helix wrestler’s first loss in the tournament was to Buchanan senior Isaiah Ortiz, who would go on to place seventh in the weight class.
Helix Charter senior 106-pounder Marcus Tucker and West Hills junior heavyweight Lucas Ah Key both finished 0-2 in their respective weight classes.
Tucker, a second-place finisher at the San Diego Masters, dropped a pair of decisions by scores of 10-7 and 6-2.
Ah Key, a fourth-place finisher at the San Diego Masters, lost by a pin and a 10-1 major decision in his two matches.
As a whole, the San Diego Section finished this year’s state championship tournament with 13 medalists, including a pair of weight class champions and three finalists.
Poway senior Quentin Hovis, this year’s San Diego Masters Outstanding Wrestler award winner, defeated Santiago junior Joshua Kim by a 5-2 decision to capture the 152-pound championship.
Hovis finished the season 52-0 after previously winning three state division titles in Arizona.
Hovis, who is bound for the Naval Academy, acknowledged this year’s state title was the toughest of the four he has won.
Rancho Bernardo senior Chasen Blair recorded a 12-3 major decision over Gilroy junior Tony Andrade to win the 195-pound state title.
Also, Rancho Buena Vista junior Bernie Truax finished second in his 138-pound division to give San Diego three state finalists.
Poway led the section with eight state medalists. Carson Sauriol (fifth, 113 pounds), Chase Zollman (fifth, 126 pounds), Scotty Kiyono (fifth, 132 pounds), Hampton Boyd (fifth, 160 pounds), Nathan Tausch (fifth, 182 pounds), Jacob Allen (eighth, 106 pounds) and Domonic Mata (eighth, 145 pounds) joined Hovis in the awards ceremony.
Rancho Bernardo had three state medalists. Jaden Abas (third, 126 pounds) and Erick Salcido (fifth, 152 pounds) joined Blair on the awards stand.
Mater Dei Catholic senior Aaron Olmos finished third in his 160-pound weight class to round out the section’s state medalists.
Poway, with its eight state medalists, finished third in the team standings behind Buchanan (first) and Clovis (second).
The state title was the third for Buchanan.
Clovis senior Justin Mejia became only the second four-time state champion in the 45-year history of the event when he defeated Selma senior Robert Garcia by a 3-2 decision to claim the 126-pound championship.
Seth Nevills, a junior heavyweight from Clovis, won his third state title by defeating Delhi senior Jesus Flores by a 59-second pin.
Bakersfield senior Navonte Demison won his second state title by defeating Granite Bay senior Jack Ramalia by a 5-2 decision at 145 pounds.
Also of note, St. John Bosco freshman Jesse Vasquez won his first state title by defeating Gilroy junior Nicolas Aguilar by a 6-5 decision at 113 pounds.