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Three local wrestlers return with state medals
wrestling 1
Turlock High wrestler Garrett Fortado, left, battled his way through the CIF State Championships in Bakersfield and placed eighth in the 103-pound weight class. - photo by IKE DODSON / The Oakdale Leader
Five area wrestlers competed in the CIF State Championships in Bakersfield last weekend and all of them came back to Turlock with plenty of stories to tell. But none returned with the ultimate story.
The closest to a state championship was Turlock High junior Fabian Garcia, who settled for sixth in the 119-pound class after his flaring knee became too much for him. He reached the quarterfinals on the first day of the tournament, where he suffered a 9-3 decision to Poway High’s Gabe Brown before battling back through Saturday’s consolation rounds to leave with his third state medal in three seasons to go along with him finishing seventh and fourth as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.
“Fabian’s goal was to be a state champion, so he was disappointed, as was I,” coach Mike Contreras said, “but he fought through his knee injury and became only the second wrestler in Turlock’s history to become a three-time medalist,” with the other being Lewis Gonzales, now an assistant coach for Turlock.
It marked the seventh time the Bulldogs brought home more than one state medalist, and fifth in the last seven years.
Garcia was one of three local wrestlers to return home with some jewelry. Teammate and sophomore Garrett Fortado (103) and Pitman High junior Andrew Perez (135) both finished eighth in their respective weight classes and both are segueing into the offseason with state title dreams.
Turlock’s Jose Zuniga (112) and Pitman’s Gustavo Verver (189) didn’t get a spot on the podium but had memorable tournaments. Zuniga, a wrestler who was used sporadically during the regular season, went 2-2 on the first day before being eliminated and giving up a loss to sophomore Alex Cisneros of Selma High, the eventual state champion. And Verver, who was one match short of last season’s tournament, completed his senior season with a top 12 run. He and Perez both dropped their first match but still managed to have deep runs on Saturday.
“It is very difficult to drop into the consolation so early and still be able to make the second day of the toughest state tournament in the nation,” Pitman coach Adam Vasconcellos said. “This feat alone made me very happy because it showed the heart that Gustavo and Andrew had. It would have been easy to pack it up and give in after dropping the first match. It shows the type of program we are developing at Pitman.”
Yes, the Pride program has potential, especially with Perez returning for his senior season. With his eighth-place medal, he became just the second wrestler in Pitman history to bring home a medal, adding on to the medal collection at the Perez household. That other wrestler is Vincent Perez, Andrew’s older brother, who place eighth in 2007 and fifth in 2008, both at 103 pounds.
After the state tournament, Andrew had a conservation with his coach. They talked about how many of this year’s finalists took sixth, seventh and eighth in the previous state tournament.
“Half,” said Andrew.
With that said, Vasconcellos knows he has someone with potential to become Pitman’s first-ever state champion in 12 months from now.
“He already has his eye on big things for next year,” Vasconcellos said.
The same could be said about Turlock’s two state medalists. Fortado will be a junior next season after he learned that he can be very competitive against the state’s best wrestlers in what is considered the top high school wrestling state tournament in the country. He went 3-3 during his two-day run, with the losses by no more than two points.
All Fortado hoped for was to reach the second day.
There were higher expectations for Garcia. But his bad knee — something that had been an issue all season — was too much on him and he had to forfeit the fifth-place match against Sheldon High’s Isaiah Hurtado, whom Garcia beat at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament a week earlier.
Garcia is in position to become Turlock’s first four-time state wrestler and join only 21 other wrestlers in California history to achieve four medals in a single prep career. After going 4-2, not counting his injury default for sixth, he wants to be No. 22.
“Anytime you come home with multiple medalists,” Contreras said, “you can’t complain.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.