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Angel Velasquez advances to State semifinal
Angel Velasquez
Angel Velasquez controls Richard Pocock in his 9-2 win at the CIF State Championships on Friday. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Angel Velasquez is only two matches away from becoming a State champion. It’s an unexpected position for the Pride senior, not because of lack of skill or ability, but because he was barred from competition for much of the 2014-15 wrestling season while his eligibility as a transfer was reviewed.

All that is in the past now after Velasquez’s four-match run at the CIF State Championships on Friday. The only thing on his mind is today’s semifinal match in the 132-pound weight class where a win will put him one step closer to achieving his ultimate goal.

“I’m a senior. I’m wrestling like every match is my last. You don’t get another chance,” Velasquez said. “I could have lost my senior year and now I’m in the State semifinals.”

Velasquez set the tone for his State campaign Friday morning in the first round where he made quick work of Ethyn Ewing of Canyon High with a technical fall win, 15-0. Velasquez again won by a wide margin in the second round when he beat Brandon Bond of Birmngham High 12-2. As was the case in the first round, Velasquez was able to take Bond to the mat at will with his go-to single leg takedown.

“We’re very confident in Angel and the way he wrestles and we’re very confident in him being able to get a takedown,” Pitman High head coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “If Angel wrestles the entire six minutes, he’s the best kid in the state of California.”

Velasquez shut out his opponent, Richard Pocock of California High, 8-0, in the third round and set up a quarterfinal match with Buchanan High’s Greg Gaxiola that proved to be much more challenging. After a scoreless first period, Velasquez managed to get on the board first with an escape before scoring a takedown at the edge of the mat with only eight seconds in the second period. A locking-of-the-hands penalty against Velasquez before the conclusion of the second period made the score 3-1, however. The stakes were raised after a Gaxiola escape in the third and it took all Velasquez had to eke out the 3-2 win to advance to the semifinals.

“When I was in that third period, I couldn’t explain it,” Velasquez said. “This is everything I’ve dreamed of.”

Velasquez is now scheduled to face Julian Flores of San Marino High this morning to decide who competes for this year’s State title. Velasquez, who finished fourth at last year’s State Tournament, expects a tough match against Flores – a fifth place State finisher the last two years— who makes his third consecutive appearance in the State semifinals.

“He’s tough and he’s going to put up a great fight. He’s slick, but I know a few things that are wrong with his standing game. I’ve studied him and I think I know where I’m going to beat him at,” Velasquez said of Flores.  “I’m expecting a tough match, but I’m also expecting to get the job done. I’m confident; I’ve trained hard. When you’ve trained hard and have done everything you can do what more do you need?”

“Angel wants nothing less than a State title. He’s got his mind set on it, he’s worked his butt off for it, and he’s not going to accept anything less,” Vasconcellos said.

The winner of today’s semifinal match between Velasquez and Flores will face the winner of the other semifinal match of the day between Enrique Jaden of Mission Oaks High and Feliz Alexander of Gilroy High for the right to be names champion of California.

“I’m definitely giving it my all every match. Last year I wrestled very timid and this year I’m going after it and doing everything I can to win," Velasquez said. “It’s not going to be easy. But I’m not nervous, I’m not scared, I go out there to win.”