Every time he’s inside his school’s wrestling room, Turlock High senior Fabian Garcia will look at the blue banner placed high on one of the walls. All the names of the program’s past state medalists share a spot on the sign in yellow letters, with the champions distinguished in white.
Though his name is on the banner three times, Garcia hates the fact that it’s not in white.
“It reminds me that I didn’t do so good last year,” he said.
Garcia has been a state tournament contender since his freshman season, when he and his pink hair made a Cinderella-like run and finished seventh in his weight class after entering the 2008 CIF State Championships as an alternate.
In his sophomore season, he finished fourth.
In his junior season, he placed sixth after forfeiting the final match because of a bad knee.
This season, it’s now or never.
This is his last shot. So far, Garcia has been his dominant self. He ruled his 125-pound weight division at last week’s Central California Conference Championships at Buhach Colony High, finishing with an unsurprising first-place medal. He only wrestled once because he had a first-round bye and his 125-pound finals opponent, Pitman High’s Tyler Klinkhammer, opted not to compete because of an injury.
Now, Garcia is getting ready for this weekend’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Championships at Gregori High in Modesto. The two-day event starts Friday morning with the finals expected to begin at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Garcia is a two-time champion in this particular event — and he’s undoubtedly shooting for a third.
But he won’t be satisfied until his arm is raised in victory on the evening of March 5, the last day of this season’s state tournament.
“I’m wrestling every match like it’s my last,” Garcia said. “It’s my senior year, so every match I try to go as hard as I can to win.”
He has proven all season that he’s one of the state’s best. His signature win so far was capturing first at the Reno Tournament of Champions, known as the nation’s toughest high school tournament. Besides winning other tournaments like the Temecula Valley Invitational, the Tim Brown Memorial in Sacramento and Turlock’s own Bulldog Classic, he had a memorable showing at the competitive Doc Buchanan Invitational near Fresno.
There, he suffered a close loss to two-time state champion Alex Cisneros of Selma High in the tournament’s finals.
But now, he’s just looking at what’s next — and that’s this weekend’s division tournament. Garcia is favored to advance to the Section’s Masters tournament on Feb. 25-26 in Stockton, which is just one step away from the state meet.
“There (are) not too many guys that will challenge him here, I’d imagine,” Turlock coach Mike Contreras said, referring to the upcoming tournament. “Like we tell all the kids, you have to take it one match at a time. You can’t overlook people, and he doesn’t. He’s ready to wrestle every time.”
And he’s ready to have his name in white letters.
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