BAKERSFIELD — The disappointment was written all over their faces, soon after the buzzer sounded to signify the end of their respective semifinal matches in the 2011 CIF State Wrestling Championship on Saturday at Rabobank Arena.
Pitman High’s Emilio Saavedra and Turlock High’s Fabian Garcia couldn’t believe it.
Their state dreams were over.
But even so, the two local wrestlers still managed to finish with state medals. In his final high school tournament, Garcia just barely squeezed out a fifth-place showing in the 125-pound weight class, becoming the first Turlock High wrestler to notch four state medals. Saavedra, on the other hand, carried the state’s top ranking at 103 pounds for much of the season, but came up just short of a state title and finished his first state tournament appearance in third place.
Saavedra “still showed his heart coming back and taking third,” Pitman coach Adam Vasconcellos said, “even though his dreams got shattered a little bit.”
Both Garcia’s and Saavedra’s matches didn’t end without some controversy.
In his semifinal match, Saavedra faced freshman Isaiah Locsin of Live Oak High in Morgan Hill — a wrestler Saavedra had beaten with a late takedown in the competitive Doc Buchanan Invitational semis on his way to a tournament title. In the state match, Saavedra was ahead before Locsin squeezed out his own late takedown for a 4-3 advantage.
That’s when Saavedra got away to tie it up with an escape, but not before his shoe fell off his right foot. He then aggressively attacked, and it looked like he had a match-winning takedown with 5 seconds left. But the referee didn’t call it that way and the wrestlers went into overtime, where Saavedra gave up a takedown to lose in a 6-4 decision.
“He’s disappointed,” Vasconcellos said about his freshman wrestler. “He was thinking about the state tournament all year. It comes down to an overtime match against a good kid. I mean, there were some questionable calls. That’s how it goes sometimes. It didn’t go our way.”
But Saavedra took a break, got some food in his stomach and finished the day with wins over Manny Marin of Buchanan High (Clovis) before topping Porterville High’s Mason Pengilly for third place.
Turlock’s Garcia appeared to have a harder time in the consolations after losing to Clovis North’s Vince Rodriguez in the state semifinals. Garcia was up by a point when Rodriguez turned on his “switch” — a takedown with 30 seconds left for a 2-1 lead. Garcia quickly flipped over in hopes of getting an escape, but bad luck struck again for a Turlock wrestler. The ref didn’t award the point, and Garcia suffered the close decision.
Garcia then suffered a 4-2 decision to Gilroy High’s Nikko Villarreal in his first consolation match and nearly allowed a late pin in his fifth-place match against Santa Ana High’s Sammy Cano. In that match, Garcia won 11-9.
“Once we lost that semifinal match, we weren’t there mentally,” Turlock coach Mike Contreras said. “I feel there shouldn’t be any reason why we shouldn’t be third in this tournament after losing that semi match. It’s tough. You gotta stay there mentally and I don’t think he was able to do that today.”
Garcia finished his career at Turlock High with four medals (seventh as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore, sixth as a junior and now, fifth as a senior). After his final match, he had trouble speaking about his experience at State. His eyes were watery and his words expressed disappointment.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t at the top of my game.”
Pitman senior Andrew Perez was the only other local wrestler competing in the second day of the tournament. At 130 pounds, he finished one win from placing and repeating as a state medalist.
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