Local wrestlers took the California Interscholastic Federation high school wrestling tournament by storm this week at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield with 15 local wrestlers hoping to reach the podium.
By Friday afternoon, Pitman and Turlock had eight wrestlers undefeated and competing in the quarterfinals after a standout day one on Thursday.
Pitman saw Juan Mora (220), Izzy Tubera (120), Kendall La Rosa (160), Lilly Freitas (150), Lilly Avalos (106) and Alana Ontiveros (137) advance to the quarterfinal round on Friday.
Turlock High’s Hailey Ward (101) and Adrian Heras (132) also reached the quarterfinal round after each went undefeated on day one.
“It is hard, we have tonight to reset, but being a state medalist, it is something that is super hard to do, less than one percent are state champs,” said Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos. “We have the chance at six medals and it is exciting… I hope some breaks go our way.”
No. 1 seeded Freitas made quick work of her first two matches on Thursday via fall, earning a spot in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
She ended her second day with a 19 second win via fall, which earned her a berth in the semifinal for the second straight year.
“I feel like I did really well. This is probably my best wrestling tournament out of the whole season. I feel like I am peaking,” said Freitas. “I don’t think I could have done better. If she would have stayed in bounds, I think it could have been quicker.”
Frietas was the lone wrestler from the Journal’s coverage area to advance to the semifinals on Saturday. However, seven other wrestlers can still medal for Pitman and Turlock, while two nearly clinched a spot in the semifinals.
Pitman’s Juan Mora (220) is now 3-1 heading into Saturday after he lost a close quarterfinal match to No. 3 Brandon Leon (Roosevelt) that ended 4-3.
“We wrestled really great day one and we were the underdogs in a lot of matches today, and two bad calls cost Izzy and Mora right now,” said Vasconcellos. “Mora’s match was a locking hands, multiple times, and I don’t know how these refs missed it, there are two refs out there, but it just seems to happen to us.”
Another contentious call for Pitman came when No. 7 Izzy Tubera (120) squared off with No. 2 Tristan Lujan of Selma in the quarterfinal round on Friday.
Tubera was leading 1-0 with about 27 seconds remaining, when a contentious illegal hold was called. Tubera ended up losing a 3-1 decision and is 2-1 going into Saturday.
“Izzy’s match… we were ahead 1-0 with about 27 seconds left, and called us for an illegal hold, and that wasn’t illegal, we have it on film, and it cost him a semifinal berth,” said Vasconcellos.
Kendall La Rosa (160) of Pitman fell in his quarterfinal match to Rocco Contino of Buchanan after a 5-3 overtime loss that saw La Rosa nearly pull out the win.
Pitman’s Lilly Avalos (106) lost to national champion Nyla Valencia after a 12-0 major decision and has a 2-1 record going into Saturday.
Alana Ontiveros (137) of Pitman High lost to the No. 1 seed from Central Catholic, Faalia Martinez after a close 4-2 decision in the quarterfinal round on Friday. Ontiveros has a 2-1 record as she looks to medal on Saturday.
Turlock High’s Hailey Ward had major goals heading into state after she went 2-0 in day one and earned a spot in the quarterfinals on Friday, looking to earn her fourth medal.
Ward, ranked No. 7 in the state, then took on No. 2 Lizette Rodriguez on Friday for a chance to earn a spot in the semifinals, but her match didn’t end the way she had hoped.
Instead, they went into overtime, before Ward lost via fall, but she holds a 2-1 record heading into day three.
“Hailey, we knew it would be a tough match with Rodriguez, she has beaten her before at another tournament, had her where we wanted… had her in OT and just a last second takedown,” said THS head coach Mike Contreras.
The other wrestler that advanced to the third day with an opportunity to medal for Turlock was No. 6 Heras after he won his first two matches and earned a berth in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Heras then squared off with No. 3 Ryan Franco of Clovis North and lost an 11-6 decision that was very close and even saw Heras nearly pull off a pin.
“Two and two is good you know… so hopefully we can work hard tomorrow and continue to improve,” said Contreras. “Adrian’s match, we had a plan, and we did a good job of executing the plan, even though we gave up a reversal at the end of the second. It was a tight match… just down two going into the third, and Adrian has already escaped from him, but a near-fall… that was the difference, if he gets the escape it is 9-7 and different outcome. He can catch anybody at any given time, but just unfortunate for us it didn't happen.”
By the first matchups of the morning, Pitman’s Isaiah Ontiveros (152) had been knocked out of the tournament along with Hilmar High’s Efrain Duenas (182), who lost via fall in the third period, with about 1:19 left in the match.
Before the quarterfinals kicked off on Friday afternoon, only Pitman and Turlock had wrestlers still alive.
Along with Hilmar’s Duenas, Mark LaBass (195) also fell short of winning a match after losing back-to-back matches via decision. Duenas lost both of his matches by pin and each were eliminated with an 0-2 record.
Carson Hatch (220) of Hughson won a single match on Friday morning before losing in the consolation bracket via fall after going 1-2.
Freshman Ethan Ward (106) lost his first match on Thursday and was eliminated by Friday afternoon after suffering an injury to his shoulder and lost 4-1. Ethan finished state with a 2-2 record.
Tal Malhi (182) of Pitman High went 2-2 and was eliminated after his fourth match, which was in the consolation. He went 2-1 in the consolation bracket.
“Only three people from the 209 made it to the semifinals, all girls, and my close friends, Faalia and Lexy. I cannot wait to see them wrestle tomorrow as well,” Freitas added. “I expect tough matches but I am confident. Hopefully, I can pull it off and become a two-time state champion.”
“Top percent make it here. If you medal here, you are in the one hundredth percentile and they have something to fight for in the morning,” Vasconcellos added.
One win is needed by each wrestler in the consolation bracket to medal. If they win one, they are in the top eight.
Day three will conclude Saturday. The semifinals are scheduled for 11 a.m. Medal matches start at 1 p.m.