A total of 30 wrestlers from Pitman, Turlock, Hilmar and Delhi high schools competed in this year's two-day California Interscholastic Federation’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament from Stockton Arena on Friday and Saturday. By the end of the tournament 10 wrestlers had qualified and will advance to the prestigious California State Wrestling Tournament starting March 3.
Leading the way was back-to-back and two-time Masters winner Adam Velasquez (126) of Pitman who won in the final after a 5-3 decision.
“I'm thankful to have won back to back masters. It was really cool being the first one from Pitman to do it,” said Velasquez. “At the end of the day, Masters was a stepping stone to what I'm focused on — a state championship is the goal along with asking Janelle if she would be the highlight of my day at prom.”
Velasquez, who placed fifth in the 2016 CIF State Tournament looks to be seeded at least in the top four when action begins on Friday. The 126-pound bracket looks to be arguably one of the most deep and competitive this year.
“My bracket is the hardest in the state this year with 10 returning state placers and four of them being ranked in the country,” said Velasquez. “But my mission is to dethrone the three-time returning state champ, Justin Mejia of Clovis. He's going for his fourth, but I plan on winning it and shutting that down.”
Velasquez took all he learned from a season ago and focused primarily on details, one of which is preparing his body for the long grind of a state tournament finale.
“I'm as prepared as can be,” said Velasquez. “I've put my body through the worse in order to be prepared for my goal. Not much is different this time around, aside from my training. I've stepped it up to a whole new level. The experience I gained from last year really helped me a lot with how I have to approach every match at state this year. Don't overlook anybody.”
Isaiah Perez (170) took second for the Pride while teammates Brendan Tallent (195), Izzy Tubera (106) and Joseph La Rosa (152) all qualified for state as well. Jesse Flores of Delhi finished in second in the heavyweight class after losing in the final after a stall call that ended 2-1.
Hilmar brothers Cody (182) and Justin Rentfro (170) also qualified for state after finishing in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Pitman took fourth place out of the 138 schools that competed at Masters while Turlock finished in 15th. Pitman had the most Masters Medalists with six and the squad also qualified the most in team history for state with five.
Out of the 11 wrestlers who competed for Turlock High, two advanced to state — Breck Jeffus (197), who placed third, and freshman William Giron (106), who finished in sixth.
“Breck seems to be peaking at the right time. Wrestled very well, pinning in consolation semi's,” said Turlock head coach Mike Contreras. “William wrestled great on Friday but not so great Saturday, losing three close ones. But to qualify as a freshman is great. We were close to having four qualifiers.”
The CIF State Championships will take place from Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield starting at 9 a.m. Friday and concluding Saturday.