Pitman and Turlock High wrestling programs had a strong turnout at the CIF State Wrestling Tournament this past weekend from Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield after they each saw some history being made from the girls and boys sides, earning a total of six medals, and crowning a champion.
The Pitman girls wrestling team finished 3rd, while the boys took 16th place.
Like all tournaments, this one saw some of the highest highs and lowest lows, but one of those highs was record-breaking Hailey Ward (101), who earned her fourth state medal in four years while wrestling for Turlock High, something that no other prior girl from town had done.
“Pioneer Alexia Moreno was one of the first girls that really started, but as girls wrestling started growing, Hailey took the reins,” said Turlock wrestling girls coach Lucas Solarez. “Then a lot of girls began to follow and a lot of girls from the area wrestled in our youth program, but she started a big thing in our area and now we will have a handful of girls coming through.”
Ward, who has been wrestling for most of her life, has taken wrestling seriously and her accolades have proved that.
She has won the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament a whopping four times.
In all four years, she not only reached the CIF State Tournament, she earned a medal every year during her high school career in the same weight class.
As a freshman, Ward closed out the tournament with an eighth-place finish. Then, as a sophomore, she finished in fifth place at state.
Last season (junior year) was her best finish after she fought back through the consolation bracket to take third place.
This season she finished her career at Turlock High in sixth place, to stamp her mark in Turlock High wrestling, and as the first girls wrestler from town to achieve a CIF State medal in all four years.
“That was big for her, she was disappointed she didn’t finish higher, but when you have four medals in the state of California for wrestling that is a big accomplishment and I am happy for her,” said THS wrestling head coach Mike Contreras. “She did a great job and had a great high school career, and we will see if she keeps wrestling, that will be good for her.”
So far, it is up in the air whether Ward will wrestle at the next level, but collegiate coaches have been reaching out with high interest from a handful of schools.
“Not really what we planned, since we wanted to make the finals, but she had tight matches with girls she has lost to and could have gone either way, but overall, very happy with her performance and overall the past four years,” said Solarez. “She has been a great wrestler and continued to work and be one of the leaders for girls wrestlers especially in Turlock. She did great and just to place all four years is something special in itself.”
The other medal winner from Turlock High was SJS Masters Champion Adrian Heras (132), who ended up placing eighth.
“Forfeited his 7th place match since he got hurt,” said Contreras. “The kid was definitely going into the tournament and thought he could win the whole thing and a little disappointed he lost, but really he only ended up with two losses and all at state, overall pretty successful.”
Pitman saw three medals for the day when Kendall La Rosa (160), Juan Mora (220) and Lilly Avalos (106) earned a spot at the podium on Saturday night.
Two wrestlers from Pitman also lost close ones, with questionable calls, against the eventual State champions.
Pitman’s Izzy Tubera (120) was leading the eventual State champion Tristan Lujan of Selma after a 1-0 score in the third and final period and 27 seconds remaining.
Then a questionable illegal hold was called. Tubera lost that match, 3-1, and Lujan won the state tournament.
“In Izzy’s match, he was called for an illegal hold and that wasn’t illegal. We have it on film and it cost him a semifinal berth,” said Pitman head coach Adam Vasconcellos.
Tubera was eliminated the next day in the consolation and took 12th with a 2-2 record.
Freshman Avalos (106) finished the tournament in fourth place after she turned some heads and lost only to two of the top three finishers.
“She is a warrior. She is one of the toughest girls I've been around,” said Vasconcellos. “She is physically strong and her grip strength, she is a jiu-jitsu champion, a great athlete, could be an MMA fighter.”
Avalos went 46-4 for the year, with two of her losses coming at State.
One of those losses was to the eventual champion Nyla Valencia in the quarterfinal round.
“Fourth at State is outstanding, crazy good,” said Vasconcellos. “Biggest girls and boys state tournaments are here in the entire country for high school. In her third-place match, the other girl landed in a weird spot and cradled and it was a weird pin and fought a takedown, first period, happened right away, she was bummed but it is what it is. She is going to wrestle a lot this summer.”
Although he ended up in fifth place, Mora had all the tools needed to beat the eventual champion, whom he led against at one point heading into the third period, 3-2, with under one-minute left. That wrestler was Brandon Leon of Roosevelt.
Mora earned an escape point with 1:51 left in the match, but after two points scored and with 56 seconds left, Leon led 4-3.
Multiple contentious calls by the refs led to a close one where Leon barely edged out Mora.
“One bad call cost Mora,” 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.”
Mora ended up taking fifth with a 6-2 record.
“He is a junior, has one more year coming back, he is a kid that is super driven, wrestled all summer, all American in Fargo, he wants to win this thing next year,” said Vasconcellos.
Future Cal Poly Mustang wrestler Kendall La Rosa (160) also earned his first medal after placing fourth at State, following an impressive run.
La Rosa ended up going 5-2 in the tournament.
He reached the third-place match, but lost to Rocco Contino of Buchanan, 5-1. He had lost to him in the quarterfinals, 5-3.
“He was nervous but at the end of the day he worked too hard and did too much to win that match, he would do anything to win that match, anything can happen, he was going to do all he could,” said Vasconcellos.