BAKERSFIELD – None of the wrestlers who competed for third, fifth and seventh-place medals wanted their CIF State Wrestling Championships to end Saturday afternoon.
They sought higher goals, like fighting for state titles that night. Regardless, they finished the job and closed impressive seasons with shiny rewards in their hands.
Five from the area placed third: Turlock’s Hailey Ward (101), Oakdale’s Faalia Martinez (137), Pacheco’s Tagivale Vaifale (235), Pitman’s Izzy Tubera (113) and Oakdale’s Henry Porter (132).
Porter, a sophomore, won seven of eight matches and easily could have reached a second straight state final. He narrowly missed a match-winning takedown, however, and dropped his semifinal to Jose Fernandez III of Upper Lake 6-5.
Consider Ward, a three-time Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion whose performance curve at state – eighth, fifth and third – suggest special things for her senior season. She was distraught after her 9-1 semifinal setback to Mikayla Guevarra of Amador Valley.
Ward responded with three straight victories, the last one a pleasing third-round pin over Guevarra.
“After I lost, I wanted it more and worked my way back up to third,” she said. “Anything can happen here.”
Vaifale, a senior, was inspired by her older sister, a former standout wrestler, to take up the sport only three years ago. After losing to eventual state champion Tavi Heidelberg of McClatchy, Vaifale capped her high school career with back-to-back wins by fall. She added her third to a fourth she earned last year.
“It (wrestling) was something my sister and I could do together. A lot of people said I was pretty good, so I kept at it,” Vaifale said. “When I started, I did not think I could make it to state.”
Tubera (31-4), seventh as a freshman, rebooted after a 5-0 loss to eventual runner-up Carlos Negrete Jr. of Buchanan in the semis. Two victories later, he claimed third.
“It’s obviously not what I wanted to happen. I just had to keep my mind strong,” Tubera said. “I’ll take it as a lesson.”
Martinez, the sister of Oakdale’s 2018 state finalist Gabe Martinez, used her loss to eventual champion Aine Drury of Westminster as a springboard in consolation.
Gregori senior Liliana Vergara (30-2), suffered her first loss of the season in the semifinals 3-0 to eventual winner Alia Abushi of Arroyo. Injuries to her back and shoulder took their toll on the four-time state qualifier and three-time medalist. Vergara added her fourth-place finish to her second a year ago. Oakdale sophomore Brayden Abell (106), a state finalist in 2018, also placed fourth.
Sierra junior Alexa Garcia (160) finished sixth along with Argonaut senior Gracie Goldsmith-Ding (143). Goldsmith-Ding became Argonaut’s first state wrestling medalist.
Gabe Martinez ended a strong career at Oakdale with an eighth at 170.