His drenched-in-sweat shirt looked as if he had taken a dip into a pool. His legs must’ve had felt like they climbed a mountain, bearing in mind the type of workout his coach puts him and his teammates through.
His arms looked like they had done a thousand pushups, because, well, that’s probably how many his coach demanded. Pitman High wrestling coach Adam Vasconcellos then blew his whistle for the final time Monday afternoon, signifying the end of an agonizing practice.
But Emilio Saavedra was not done. He was not satisfied. He walked a few feet from the school’s wrestling room to the weight room. This epitomizes Saavedra, a freshman wrestler who never stops.
“He has a gas tank on him that’s really hard to compete,” Vasconcellos said. “No matter how close the match is, once it hits the third period, people have a hard time keeping pace with his pace. They can’t match it.”
Just ask North Torrance High’s Johnson Mai, the wrestler from the Los Angeles area who faced Saavedra in the 103-pound championship match of Saturday’s Doc Buchanan Invitational at Clovis High, considered California’s premier tournament that’s not the CIF State Championships. The match was tied entering the third and final period, before Saavedra mustered enough will — not just strength — to earn a takedown with 45 seconds left for the eventual 3-1 win.
It was a triumph that put a smile on Saavedra’s face even on Monday, as he took a brief break from the weight room — his other solace besides the wrestling mat, a setting he‘s gotten to know since age 4. The win was also a good indication that he could possibly capture a state title in March during his first year of high school wrestling, considering the amount of state-ranked wrestlers who competed in the annual bashing.
“Right when the third round hit, push the pace even harder,” he said about his late-match approach.
Five of Saavedra’s opponents during the two-day tournament were ranked in the state’s top eight, Vasconcellos said. Not anymore, of course. The Pitman grappler will have a red bull’s eye on his freshman back from now on, and that’s fine with him.
The attention comes at a good time. Vasconcellos believes Saavedra will jump to No. 2 in the state standings before entering this Friday’s Temecula Valley Invitational at Temecula High, where Central Union High’s Micah Perez of San Diego, the top-ranked wrestler at 103, is expected to attend.
Saavedra welcomes the challenge as he strives to become Pitman’s first state champion. He’s been thinking about that goal since last summer. He gradually made a name for himself, taking individual titles at the Western Invitational and Bulldog Classic, where he stunned state qualifier and Los Banos High senior Kendal Klette. Then came the Doc Buchanan Invitational, a place where he made a statement by defeating the state’s top wrestlers en route an 18-0 record with 14 pins.
“My goal started off small, like making it to state,” he said. “I kept working and I wrestled over the summer and started beating some names. My goals started to get higher and higher, from state qualifier to getting to the podium at state. And now, it’s to win it all.”
To get to that point, he knows he‘ll have to sweat it out.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.