The California Interscholastic Federation hosts one of the most challenging and decorated high school wrestling tournament in the country and Friday's first day of the two-day event was a testament to that.
A total of 560 wrestlers qualified to compete in the State Tournament out of 27,000 wrestlers this year—just two percent—of the state high school wrestlers. Only 112 will place.
When the first day concluded from Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, Delhi's Jesse Flores (HWY) was the only one left undefeated after finishing 4-0. A total of six local athletes moved on to the second day.
“We expect him to finish at the top of this tournament. We truly believe he is the most athletic heavyweight here wrestling now,” said Delhi head coach Rod McCombs.
Flores was able to power through all four wins in convincing fashion, ending the night with a 7-4 win in his quarterfinal match.
“All we want for him to do is be more athletically aggressive,” said McCombs. “…if he can stay aggressive and pick it up, I think it will carry on.”
Pitman came in with a record five wrestlers and two of those — Izzy Tubera (106) and Isaiah Perez (170) — accumulated three wins after four matches.
By the end of the day, Tubera and Perez went 3-1 after both fell in the quarterfinal.
“We have three guys in line for medals and it would be the most in school history if we get three medals, so we are trying to break records all year and it’s another one we want,” said Pitman wrestling coach Adam Vasconcellos.
Pitman’s Brendan Tallent (195) and Joseph La Rosa (152) were both eliminated after day one with 2-2 records, respectively.
“You never know what to expect because there are so many good guys in every bracket, everywhere you look,” said Vasconcellos. “You have state and nationally ranked guys, but all of our guys won two matches today which is unheard of. If you told me that, I would have been excited.”
No. 6 Adam Velasquez (126) of Pitman won his first match, but followed it with the biggest upset of the afternoon after a match with the No. 10 seed Elijah Palacio who looked like he had his best match yet. Palacio forced Velasquez to wrestle uncomfortable and even took him into triple overtime.
Once triple overtime ended, the match proceeded with the final 30 seconds intact and a 5-5 score that didn't change through three overtimes.
Velasquez managed to hold Palacio until the final two seconds when Palacio snuck in two final points to pull off the upset.
“Last year we went into triple overtime with that same kid and today we went into triple OT again. The ref said he was one second ahead of us. Adam is going to fight back, he didn't come here not to medal, he will fight for a podium. I expect a good day, our boys will be ready,” said Vasconcellos about day two.
For Turlock, William Giron (106) was eliminated after day one but Breck Jeffus (195) went 2-1 and earned a spot for day two after winning his final match of the day.
“Honestly, I wasn't going to wrestle cause of my hand,” said Jeffus. “I strained the joint and ripped a tendon. I can’t make it any worse, so I am just finishing the season and fixing it after and coming back next year. Now, I want to place. I did it last week; I lost my quarterfinal match and won four in a row.”
For Hilmar, only Cody Rentfro (182) managed to move on for the Yellowjackets after brother Justin (170) went 2-2 and was eliminated after losing via pin in his final match.
“First for Justin for him being a sophomore and getting the experience is huge. I told him it’s to his benefit. He has two more years to come here and its huge,” said Hilmar head coach Steve Vieira. “Cody has had all the talent for years, it’s just about putting it all together and he has to win two matches to get a medal and he deserves it, he works hard.”
Day two will resume at Rabobank Arena at 9 a.m. today.