BAKERSFIELD — It wasn’t a good way to start, especially in an event of this magnitude.
Both Pitman High freshman Emilio Saavedra and Turlock High senior Fabian Garcia have dreams of having their hands raised toward the sky at the conclusion of the CIF State Wrestling Championships. On Friday, they began that journey by hitting a couple speed bumps.
Saavedra wasn’t too happy with his first-round match in the 103-pound weight class, seeing that he had only settled his excitement right before it started. And in the second round of the 125-pound weight class, Garcia was trying his best to survive against a wrestler who was having one of his better matches of the season.
Both were glad they experienced the bumps.
It was another typical, heart-wrenching day of state wrestling action, and Saavedra and Garcia are pleased that they’re now just one win from reaching the state finals in a tournament with 560 entries.
The two local wrestlers will compete in their respective semifinals today at 9:30 a.m. at Rabobank Arena, with Saavedra going up against Isaiah Locsin of Live Oak High and Garcia facing a familiar foe in Clovis North High’s Vince Rodriguez.
The championship matches start at 7:15 p.m.
Two other local wrestlers competed Friday, with Pitman’s Andrew Perez, a state medalist from last season, still alive in the consolation rounds of the 130-pound class. He went 3-1, only losing in the quarterfinals against Union Mine High’s Cody Tow, a senior who’s a favorite to win it all. The other wrestler was Pitman’s Tyler Klinkhammer, who went 2-2 at 125 pounds and faced two guys who are ranked in the state’s top five.
For Saavedra and Garcia, they hope to be the state’s best by the end of today.
Saavedra earned three pins out of his four matches. He endured an 8-2 win over Clovis West High’s Brandon Rodriguez in the quarterfinals, but it was the first match of the day that he wasn’t completely happy about despite the fact that he pinned his opponent, Clayton Valley High’s Troy Lakin, in 3 minutes, 48 seconds.
Saavedra blamed his state tournament jitters.
“(The day) went the way I wanted to,” he said. “Not the first match, but after that I couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
His coach, Adam Vasconcellos, knows that he might have a special day ahead of him if Saavedra continues to dominate.
“It’s amazing to me to see Emilio today, the way that he was not really nervous and was ready to wrestle, ready to go out and win — and freshmen just don’t do that,” Vasconcellos said. “They’re nervous because it’s their first time. All he thinks about is the next win.”
For Garcia, he’s been here before since he‘s a three-time state medalist. So he went through his day with an all-business attitude. By the second round, however, he was tested. His opponent was Lemoore High’s Dillion Rocha, who placed sixth in the Central Section, considered the most difficult section in the state.
But Garcia didn’t get rattled, as he pulled off a 5-3 decision to complete a 4-0 day with one pin, one technical fall and two decisions, including a 6-1 win over Clovis East High’s Conner Larson in the quarterfinals.
“That second match, he’s a Central Section sixth, but we all know that the Central Section is the toughest section in the state,” Turlock coach Mike Contreras said. “He probably wrestled his best match of the year. We probably didn’t wrestle our best match, but we were still able to pull it out, so that’s good for us. And then he came back solid in the next two rounds.”
Now, it gets tough. Real tough.
Up next is Clovis North’s Vince Rodriguez, who’s ranked third in the state behind Garcia. But Garcia has the mental edge, since he topped Rodriguez earlier this season. Garcia has prepared for this match, studying tapes of their previous meeting in preparation for his final state tournament.
“I know I beat him already but he’s a tough wrestler,” Garcia said. “It can go either way. It’s whoever wants it more. And I think I want it more.”
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