SportStars Magazine

CIF State Wrestling Preview

Legends Are Born At The CIF State Wrestling Championships — Here’s A Look At The Most Likely Candidates To Make A Lasting Impact This Year •


Waterford senior Kyle Brown peered onto the center floor at the Stockton Arena last week and gestured toward the semifinal bouts taking place during the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Championships.

“You know that 195-pounder from Oakdale,” he said, referring to state gold medal favorite Colby Harlan. “I beat him once.”

His own coach, Rick LaFerriere, and coach Glen White of rival Ripon, turned in bewilderment.

“When did you do that?” LaFerriere asked.

“When we were 10 years old,” Brown said with an ear-to-ear grin.


“Still counts,” White said with a smile.

Colby Harlan of Oakdale

When you are as good as Colby Harlan, even a fifth-grade triumph over you is a worthy conservation starter. It’s the kind of lore that wrestling breeds. You know someone, somewhere is telling a “I beat Dan Gable in middle school” story, or perhaps even a “I scored a point on Cael Sanderson” story.

To be worthy of legends, you have to achieve greatness, something the California Interscholastic Federation hands out in medal form at the CIF State Championships Saturday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.

The two-day tournament, featuring 14 weight classes, pits the best wrestlers in the state, regardless of enrollment or division, in thrilling 40-man brackets that unfold before the most boisterous prep sports fans on the planet.

Below is a preview of the action to come, broken down by weight, with a special look at NorCal’s best shots at greatness, upsets to anticipate and our final NorCal rankings, featuring only the qualifiers of this tournament.

Who will emerge a legend?


Blake Fredrickson of Windsor

Overview: Two wrestlers undefeated in state competition, Richard Figueroa (freshman) of Selma and Blake Fredrickson (junior) of Windsor, are an undisputed top-2 here, since they both beat No. 3 Carlos Negrete of Clovis North-Fresno. Figueroa, ranked fourth in the nation, has the better pedigree out-of-state, and is expected to contend for four straight state titles in his career.
NorCal’s best hope: Central Coast Section champ Jayden Gomez of Gilroy and Sac-Joaquin Section winner Jake Stone of Oakmont-Roseville could meet in the second round of the tournament. The winner of that match would see Fredrickson in the next round, leaving NorCal’s best eggs in the same quarterfinal basket.
Upset special: Don’t be surprised if No. 3 seed Johnathon Prata of Downey repeats his state championship. Will Giron of Turlock, a junior seeded 11th, is still smarting from a semifinal round defeat to Stone last week, and may take his issues out on No. 6 Ramiro Castillo of Central-Fresno in the round of 16.


Antonio Lorenzo, seen here wrestling for Del Oro in 2016, is now a heavy favorite for St. John Bosco-Bellflower.

Overview: Former Del Oro-Loomis wrestler Antonio Lorenzo, now at St. John Bosco-Bellflower, is ranked 10th in the nation and a big-time favorite here. He could draw Central Section champ Maximo Renteria in the semifinals.
NorCal’s best hope: Caydin Wickard of Golden Valley-Merced was dominant at SJS Masters, and is Northern California’s best chance of bringing home some state hardware. He’s seeded eighth and would draw Lorenzo in the quarterfinals. CCS champ Eric Sanchez of Silver Creek-San Jose (No. 11) has a good chance to make the quarters and see No. 2 seed Jason Miranda of Poway.
Upset special: Look out for Jimmy Heryford of Sutter, a three-time Northern Section champ and state qualifier who hasn’t won his first state match, but can do it in style against state No. 12 Amuro Easton of Calvary Chapel-Santa Ana in the opening round.


Overview: The first good shot at a NorCal state title falls upon Nicolaus Aguilar of Gilroy, a four-time state qualifier and two-time runner-up. Aguilar has narrowly beaten his toughest competition and will need to wrestle tough to maintain his top seed. Aguilar could draw Jacob Allen of Poway in the semifinals. Aguilar has won two of their three head-to-head matches this season.
NorCal’s best hope: This is a good weight class for NorCal wrestlers. Brenden Johnson (Del Oro-Loomis), Henry Porter (Oakdale), Antonio Margiotta (Las Lomas-Walnut Creek), Dakota Unpingco (Freedom-Oakley) and Jacob Peralta (Vacaville) are all seeded in the top 16. Any of them could medal.
Upset special: Porter dropped a match to Johnson in the SJS finals, but he’s beaten six-seed Cole Reyes of Frontier-Bakersfield, who was fourth in state a year ago. Expect Porter to upset someone, possibly seven-seed Brandon Paulson of Clovis in the round of 16.


Overview: Cleveland Belton of St. John Bosco-Bellflower is so good, he pinned No. 3 seed Ethan Leake (Buchanan-Clovis) in 23 seconds. He will enter as one of the biggest favorites of the tournament after winning the Southern Section.
NorCal’s best hope: Angelo Martinoni of Folsom is destined for that podium, it’s just a matter of where. Martinoni has won six straight tournaments, including the Tim Brown, MidCals and the SJS Masters. He’s seeded fourth and faces a tough draw with Aaron Perez of James Logan-Union City in his third match.
Upset special: Martinoni, Chase Saldate (Gilroy), Kyle Parco (De La Salle-Concord), Lokahi Tonge (Elk Grove) and Jose Fernandez (Upper Lake) have the 5-9 seeds in consecutive order and will all be in serious medal contention. Look out for Devin Holman of El Capitan-Merced, who has a knack for falls. He pinned four of his opponents at the SJS Masters.


Overview: National No. 4 Jesse Vasquez of Santiago-Corona is one of three nationally-ranked wrestlers in this stout weight class. He will likely await the winner of a highly-anticipated semifinal between No. 2 Chase Zollmann of Poway and No. 3 Alex Felix of Gilroy. Zollmann beat Felix in an overtime tiebreaker to win MidCals at the end of January.
NorCal’s best hope: Felix hasn’t lost to Vasquez, and he could get past Zollmann to win that first meeting and make his fourth state medal at 132 a gold.
Upset special: Eli Blake of Del Oro, seeded 11th, already defeated the No. 6 seed, Robert Areyano of Selma, in a 4-3 thriller back in December. Blake could repeat that feat to reach the quarterfinals and see Felix.


Michael Mello of Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills.

Overview: National No. 5 Jaden Abas of Rancho Bernardo-San Diego was second at the prestigious Walsh Ironman-Ohio and is a two-time top-3 finisher in state. He’s only lost one match this season, but he hasn’t faced Vacaville’s Lawrence Saenz (second seed), who is unbeaten at 138 and won a fourth-place medal at state last year.
NorCal’s best hope: Saenz is Vacaville’s best chance at state gold and can win the finale if he can get past Buchanan’s Matt Olguin, the Central Section champ, in the semifinals.
Upset special: Michael Mello of Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills, the 13 seed, could upset No. 4 Dawson Sihavong of Bullard-Fresno, considering he already pinned him once this year. Northern Section champion Dalton Lakmann (Foothill-Palo Cedro) and runner-up Ricky Landeros (Orland) should medal here. Don’t be surprised if Thomas Grey of Oakland Tech gets a win here.


Overview: The second weight with a top NorCal seed drops in the lap of Peyton Omania of De La Salle, who has split matches with Jake Ryan of Oakdale (No. 3 seed) this season. Between them is No. 2 Tony Mendoza of Selma, who neither have wrestled.
NorCal’s best hope: Omania has an easier road to the finals, but nothing comes easy at state. Whoever has the best tournament can win this bracket.
Upset special: Sanchez O’leary of Lowell-S.F. is a rare San Francisco Section wrestler who finishes in the top 10 after a regular season of nearly 30 wins. He could roll up a few wins in consolation.


JT Stinson of Del Oro-Loomis

Overview: Dominic Mata of Poway is the top seed and favorite, but this is a wide-open weight class with a ton of talent, including No. 2 seed Trey Munoz of Trabuco Hills, the SS champ, and No. 3 seed Johnny Fox of Gilroy, the CCS champ. Munoz and Mata haven’t wrestled, but Mata has twice beaten Fox by a narrow decision.
NorCal’s best hope: Fox can avenge his prior losses with a big tournament here, and also expect fireworks from SJS winner JT Stinson of Del Oro (seeded eighth) and CCS runner-up Daniel Woo (seeded 10th), who Fox beat by just one point last week.
Upset special: Look out for Stinson, a known giant killer, in the top quarterfinal bracket. Stinson beat national No. 11 Cole Matthews of Pennsylvania this season. If he solves the trouble with Mata that led to a flurry of points and a 17-5 defeat earlier this season, he could add another upset to his resumé.


Rodney Kincaid of Anderson

Overview: The three returning state medalists, top-seeded Joshua Kim of Santiago-Corona, No. 2 Noah Blake of Del Oro and No. 3 Joel Romero of Buchanan-Clovis all won their sections and should reach at least the state semifinals. Blake beat Romero by two points and set his sights on Kim when the Santiago senior bumped up to 160 and took over the top ranking.
NorCal’s best hope: Blake wrestles at a furious pace, and finished all his SJS Masters opponents by pin, in a maddening three minutes and 28 seconds of mat time. His cardio is superb and he should hustle his way to a thrilling showdown with Kim in the finals.
Upset special: Anderson’s Rodney Kincaid would be seeded in the top 15, if not for surprising defeats the first week he cut to this weight class. Expect a well-adjusted Kincaid, a three-match winner at state last year, to be all No. 6 seed Michael Goldfeder of Buckley-Shermen Oaks can handle in the round of 16.


Overview: Christian Rodriguez of Selma is a big favorite to win his second state medal. He was fifth at the same weight class a year ago. He beat No. 2 seed Mark Cardwell of Monache in the finals of last week’s Central Section tournament, and could beat his rival for a third time this season in the bracket final.
NorCal’s best hope: No. 5 seed Gabe Martinez was beaten by Rodriguez by only one point this year, in the finals of the Bakersfield Rumble for the Rig in December. To get a rematch, Martinez needs to get by No. 4 Dylan Miracle of Madera South, who was fourth in the stacked Central Section last week.
Upset special: Hussien Abbushi of Arroyo-San Lorenzo wasn’t on any radars during the regular season, but he finished 21-6 before consecutive wins to take the NCS championship. He landed a good draw in a winnable grouping of five and could steal the No. 8 seed’s trip to the quarterfinals.


Overview: National No. 8 Anthony Montalvo of Buchanan-Clovis is the undisputed favorite here. He’s landed a pin or major decision over every state foe he has faced at 182, and could continue that trend this weekend.
NorCal’s best hope: MidCals champ Matthew Martinez of Alvarez-Salinas was the CCS champ and took a No. 6 seed at state. He only needs one upset, against No. 3 Escobedo Guillermo of Bishop Amat-La Puente (SS champ), to reach the semifinals and lock up a top-6 medal.
Upset special: Watch out for the pin specialists at state. That’s something Shasta’s Quin Simard is known for. He stuck No. 2 seed Nathan Tausch of Poway at MidCals, and he’s only lost three matches this season. Castlemont’s Denzel Mabry should represent the Oakland section well here.


Overview: Oakdale’s Colby Harlan, Gilroy’s Antonio Andrade and Ryan Reyes of Clovis West-Fresno may occupy the national rankings from No. 7 to No. 10, but this is Harlan’s weight class. He’s beaten both rivals and is hungry for state gold after finishing second last year. Harlan didn’t allow a point against him at the SJS Masters last week.
NorCal’s best hope: After Harlan and No. 2 seed Andrade, NCS champ Adrian Chavez, whose only bracket losses are to Reyes and No. 5 seed Jacob Good. Chavez should find a way to medal here.
Upset special: Chris Island of Vacaville snuck into a No. 14 seed, and could drop a big blow by beating Reyes in the second round. They have never faced, and Island can be explosive early.


Overview: The last real chance at a NorCal title will fall on the broad shoulders of Victor Jaquez (Bellarmine-San Jose), an undefeated junior who posted a 7-3 win over No. 2 seed Trevor Erwin of Buchanan.
NorCal’s best hope: NorCal could see an all-NorCal semifinal if Isaiah Perez (Pitman-Turlock) continues to wrestle healthy and aggressive. Perez, a four-time state qualifier who wrestled his first tournament at 113 pounds, can beat anyone in this bracket.
Upset special: The Northern section always brings it in the upper weights, and both No. 6 seed Tony Rogers (Chester) and No. 4 Jacob Christian (Durham) can land upsets here. They are in the same semifinal bracket that contains Perez.


Jake Levengood of Vacaville

Overview: It’s really saying something when perhaps the pound-for-pound best wrestler in the state is a heavyweight. Top-seed and national No. 3 Seth Nevills of Clovis is on the cusp of his fourth straight state title. He has won every match by pin this year, albeit for a narrow defeat to national No. 2 Cohlton Schultz of Colorado.
NorCal’s best hope: In any other season, Vacaville’s Jake Levengood would be a monster contender for state gold. He mowed through the SJS Masters bracket last week and should see Nevills in the final if he can get past SS champ Tony DaCosta of Torrance.
Upset special: Levi Markey of Del Campo-Fair Oaks, who weighs 205 pounds (soaking wet), was an unbelievable story at the SJS Masters, dispatching a pair of state-medal hopefuls to the consolation bracket. Look for him to shine here as well.

Track the action in Bakersfield as it happens by following @Ike_Dodson in Twitter.

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