Sat, Mar 12 2011 06:18 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The road to this year’s high school state wrestling championships continues this weekend when qualifiers from last weekend’s San Diego Section divisional finals assemble on the gym floor at Canyon Crest Academy for the monster masher known as the San Diego Masters.
The top three place-finishers in each of 14 weight classes at Masters advance to the state meet. The section-wide tournament is known for both its surprises — and heartbreak.
Five South County division champions, among 43 Metro Conference Masters qualifiers, will attempt to put their best moves to work in an effort to make it under the spotlight in Bakersfield.
There is reason to be optimistic this year.
Besides the five individual champions, five other Metro Conference mat men advanced to the championship round at last Saturday’s four divisional tournaments, each notching second- place finishes.
Otay Ranch senior Eddie Estevez was one of the latter bunch, placing second in his 114-pound weight class at the Division I finals at Eastlake High School. He qualified for the state meet as a sophomore and is seeking a return visit with more to prove. He could be joined by a teammate — or two — if the order of finish at last weekend’s divisionals is any indicator.
Otay Ranch advanced three wrestlers to the championship round in the Division I meet, with sophomore 105-pounder Tommy Espinoza claiming the school’s first-ever CIF individual gold medal. Albert Lopez finished second in his 147-pound class.
The Mustangs finished sixth as a team. Poway won the team title with 11 individual champions.
Olympian finished fifth and Mater Dei Catholic finished ninth at the Division IV finals (held in the Eagles’ gym) while Mar Vista finished sixth at the Division III finals at Ramona High School and Hilltop placed eighth at the Division II finals at Scripps Ranch. Each of the four schools had one CIF champion.
•Hilltop’s Roman Flores made a triumphant return to the mat after suffering an injury at last month’s Holtville Invitational by capturing the 162-pound weight class title at the Division II meet. He pinned Hoover’s Jhordan Arguelles in 4:35.
•Mar Vista’s Jon Nicoloff decisioned Ramona’s Josh Allen, 12-6, to claim the 191-pound title at the Division III finals.
•Mater Dei Catholic’s Efren Roman pinned Holtville’s Frank Ming in 3:59 to win the 173-pound championship at the Division IV meet while Olympian’s Jessie Perez pinned Palo Verde’s Dion Wilson in 1:50 to finish as the 287-pound champion.
Espinoza earned further accolades as the Division I outstanding lightweight wrestler while Perez was named the Division IV outstanding heavyweight wrestler.
Otay Ranch finished three points behind fifth place Granite Hills. Eastlake was eighth while Chula Vista was 13th and Sweetwater was 17th in the team standings.
Espinoza (27-5) recorded three pins in as many matches, dispatching RBV’s Anthony Aquino in 1:36, San Pasqual’s Miles Mangonon in 3:36 and Calexico freshman Kevin Teran (18-11) in 3:02 in that order.
“I’m really grateful to be a competitor,” said Espinoza, the reigning 105-pound Metro Conference champion. “I owe it all to my teammates and my coaches for their support and motivation. My goal all season has been to keep improving. It feels really special to be the first CIF wrestling champion at Otay Ranch.”
Estevez (25-3) dropped a 5-4 decision to Poway sophomore Gabe Faller (31-7) in the 114 finals after opening the tourney with pins of 1;47 and 23 seconds, and a 15-3 major decision in the semifinals against Fallbrook sophomore Andrew Tate. Estevez received some consolation by winning the CIF Sportsmanship Award.
Lopez, seeded fourth, scored falls in 54 seconds and 1:17 in his first two matches before recording a 9-8 upset victory over Vista junior Jeremy Edgel in the semifinals. Poway’s Bryant Heagney (36-4) ended Lopez’s championship run with a 6-0 win in the finals.
Lopez sports a 35-7 record entering Masters.
“I think Albert caught a lot of people off guard,” ORHS coach Troy Vierra said. “He started off the season at 160 pounds, then wrestled 152s at the El Cajon Invitational. We followed the weight plan and he got down to 145s.”
The top eight place-finishers at the Division I meet advanced to Masters. The Mustangs qualified seven grapplers overall for Masters.
Cody Springsguth placed fourth at 154 pounds while Manuel Razo (137) and Jonathan Henkel (287) both finished sixth in their respective weights and Larae Butler placed eighth at 191 pounds.
“I’m very happy,” Vierra said. "We knew we had chances with two wrestlers seeded No. 1 in their weights (Espinoza and Estevez).”
Eastlake, with five Masters qualifiers, had three mat men place third: Mathias Mendillo (127), Stevie Cervantes (162) and Gabriel Nelson (173). Chula Vista’s Bogart Marquez was third at 137 pounds.
Mendillo, who took the top-seeded wrestler into triple overtime in the semifinals, is one wrestler to keep tabs on at this weekend’s Masters meet.
Eastlake’s Abraham Sanchez (132), Sweetwater’s Adan Mendez (137) and CV’s Christopher Alcala (173) all finished fourth.
San Ysidro’s Joey Alvarez (121) and Bonita Vista’s Carlos Ayala (132) both finished third while Hilltop’s Jordan Griffin (105) and San Ysidro’s Memo Ramirez (173) and Jonathan Bastien (217) all finished fourth.
Mar Vista’s Max Uribe (132) finished third. Placing fourth were Mar Vista’s Josh Walters (105) and Castle Park’s Robert Lopez (114 pounds).
Taking second-place finishes were Olympian’s Jose Gonzalez (121) and Mater Dei’s Juan Pena (132) and Mike Gamboa (191).
The Masters championship meet is scheduled Friday, and Saturday, Feb. 25-26.
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