The season began with 28,616 California wrestlers, all of them dreaming of a trip to Bakersfield in late February.
For 896 student-athletes who’ve survived the sport’s demanding gauntlet, that dream will be realized at the CIF State Championships to be held Thursday through Saturday at Mechanics Bank (formerly Rabobank) Arena.
That list includes 55 area wrestlers, who earned their berths by placing in the top six of their respective weight classes at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships last weekend at Stockton.
All of them will take the mat at least twice in Bakersfield. For some, their state meet will be done by Thursday afternoon. For the elite, a chance for championship glory awaits Saturday night on the raised stage.
This year marks the 10th state meet for the girls, who celebrate one of the nation’s fastest growing sports. They’ll compete alongside the boys in Bakersfield for the second time, and two from the area bear close watching.
Pitman sophomore Lillian Freitas (150) won the 143-pound state title as a freshman. She is unbeaten at the prep level. Both she and Central Catholic senior Faalia Martinez (137) are top-seeded in their brackets. Martinez, who transferred from Oakdale, placed third at 137 last year.
The highest seeded male wrestler from the area is Oakdale sophomore Michael Torres (No. 3 at 106), one of four Mustangs who won Masters titles last week.
Buchanan is favored to win boys team honors for the fifth straight year. Individually, the top eight in each weight class will take their place on the post-meet podium and receive medals.
Action begins Thursday at 9 a.m. with the girls’ opening rounds, followed by the boys at 1 p.m. Friday’s program peaks with the quarterfinals at 3:45 p.m. Saturday’s semifinals are scheduled for 11 a.m., followed by the completion of all consolation rounds.
The meet climaxes with the 28 championship matches, 14 boys and 14 girls, Saturday at 6 p.m.
The event will be streamed on NFHS Network, though a subscription is required. Results will be recorded as they happen on trackwrestling.com.
Here are capsulized overviews of each bracket:
101: Turlock’s Hailey Ward, a four-time Masters champion, seeks her fourth state medal after placing third last year, fifth in ’18 and eighth in ’17. Ward, seeded seventh, and No. 2 seed Lizette Rodriguez of James Logan are a possible matchup in the semifinals. Kimball sophomore Sophia Stagnora opens against No. 8 seed Melissa Lee of Fremont.
106: Evidence suggests Pitman freshman Lilly Avalos, the Masters champion, should have received a better seed than No. 7. Gregori’s Amelia Velazquezis slotted in the same lower 16 as Avalos.
111: Calaveras sophomore Lexy Beadles (third last week) wrestled since she was 3. Also in the lower bracket is No. 2 seed Leah Guitan of Yucaipa, last year’s state champion at 106. Sierra senior Cami Jarmon opens against Buchanan’s Cristelle Rodriguez, the 2019 champ at 101.
116: Ripon junior Alyssa Oliver, if victorious in her opener, probably will face top-seeded Monica Garcia of Hillcrest, the defending state champion.
121: Lathrop freshman Janida Garcia avoided a pin during last week’s Masters final 4-1 to Orland’s Jennifer Soto, the state No. 1 seed and last year’s 111 champion. Skylee Butler of Mariposa is paired against No. 3 seed Katie Gomez of Birmingham.
126: Four are paired against unseeded wrestlers: Escalon’s Julia Cassillas, Los Banos’ Kiana Daniels, Atwater’s Ulyette Curiel and Delhi’s Naomi Cortez. Cassillas made a remarkable run through Masters consolation last week to place third.
131: No qualifiers.
137: Central Catholic senior Faalia Martinez, the No. 1 seed, could see Pitman freshman Alana Ontiveros in the second round. Isaiah Ontiveros, Alana's brother, also qualified for state. At the bottom of the bracket is freshman and No. 2 seed Savannah Gomez of Brawley.
143: Ripon’s Katelynn Cardoza, a two-year wrestler who's seeded eighth, rallied from behind in the third round to win her Masters title. Samantha Arevalo of Golden Valley begins against No. 7 seed Orianna Morales of Bakersfield. Savannah Bowman of Rowland is the defending champion and No. 1 seed.
150: Lillian Freitas of Pitman is heavily favored to win her second state title. She beat the No. 4 and 5 seeds last week. Amit Elor, Freitas’ national rival who competed at 143s after winning the state title at 150 last year, did not finish the high school season. Atwater sophomore Brianna Juarez faces Central Section winner Leila Martin of Nipomo.
160: Ramona Jimenez of Mountain House, the Masters runner-up last week, has winnable matches until the quarterfinals. The No. 1 seed is Newark Memorial’s Ariana Pereira, the state runner-up last year.
170: Masters champion Valerie Osborne of Oakdale, third in the state at 137 last year, could run into No. 2 seed BaoAhn Duncan-Perez of Clovis in the quarterfinals. Buhach Colony freshman Najeh Russo meets fifth-seeded Maliya Castillo of Ridgeview.
189: Sierra senior Alexa Garcia, the Masters champion, hopes to improve on her sixth at 160 last year. Los Banos’ Klaudet Zevada, who stormed through consolation last week for third, has a thankless assignment: No. 1 seed Alia Abushi of Arroyo, the state champion at 170 last year.
235: Atwater’s Yisela Vera-Rojas, sixth last week, is paired against No. 7 seed Arkah Cuevas of Selma. The top seed is Isela Mendez of Northview, sixth last year.
106: Oakdale sophomore Michael Torres, fifth at Masters at 113 a year ago, returns to Bakersfield as a champion and a No. 3 seed. Pitman freshman Ethan Ward, Hailey’s brother, meets No. 8 seed Matthew Terrence of Clovis. He’s located in the same bracket as No. 1 seed Andre Gonzalez of Poway, who placed third last year.
113: Oakdale’s Brayden Abell, fourth in the state last year at 106, could collide with No. 2 seed Joey Cruz of Clovis North in the quarterfinals. Patterson sophomore Jesse Cota opens in an out-bracket. Selma’s Richard Figueroa, the top-seed, was the 2019 champion at 106.
120: Pitman senior Izzy Tubera (third at 113 last year, seventh at 106 in ‘17) injury-defaulted last week’s Masters final to Oakdale freshman Jonathan Hernandez, but Tubera is seeded seventh while the unseeded Hernandez faces No. 9 seed Hayden Zinkin of Clovis North. Tubera could become the first at Pitman to earn three state medals. Gregori freshman Elijah Montez faces No. 16 seed Tommy Lavigne of Valley Center.
126: Clayton Bashor, the No. 13 seed and one of the four Oakdale Masters champions, opens in the out-bracket against Jacen Canales of Lincoln of San Francisco. Note: No SF Section wrestler ever has won a match at state. Turlock senior William Giron, eighth in the state at 106 in 2018, is seeded 10th. Grace Davis junior Carson Prim makes his second state appearance. No. 1 seed Maximo Renteria of Buchanan is the defending champion.
132: Two-time Masters champion Adrian Heras of Turlock is seeded No. 6 in an out-bracket. Tracy senior Eli Blackwell, is seeded 15th but not far away from No. 2 seed Hunter Leake of Buchanan. All three could collide. Pacheco senior Jose Navarro opens against Aaron Nagao of Esperanza, the No. 1 seed who did not win the Southern Section. Nagao won the 2019 state title at 126.
138: Golden Valley senior Willie Ward-Williams makes his first state appearance against No. 2 seed Isaac Salas of St. John Bosco. Also qualifying for state for the first time is East Union junior Tyler Diaz, who begins against No. 1 seed Alex Ramirez of Rowland.
145: Ceasar Garza of Oakdale, a Masters champion in OT last week, is seeded seventh and is positioned to win in the early rounds. At the bracket’s opposite end, Excelsior Charter’s Jesse Vasquez points toward a fourth state title. No. 3 seed Luka Wick of San Marino has scratched due to injury.
152: Oakdale’s Seth Borba, 10th-seeded, targets the No. 2 seed and defending champion Sonny Santiago of St. John Bosco in the quarterfinals. Pitman senior Isaiah Ontiveros, a two-time state qualifier, is in the out-bracket against No. 4 seed Brandon Bollinger of Sultana. Enochs senior Zion Mahoney faces fifth-seeded Reymundo Raiz of Buchanan.
160: Masters champion Kendall LaRosa, seeded fifth, has a first-round opponent – Gilroy freshman Micha Porter – with major local connections. Micha is the younger brother of former Oakdale star Henry Porterw ho transferred to Gilory. Joey LaRosa, Kendall’s father, is a Pitman assistant coach and former Hughson coach. Kyle Porter, the father, is the former Hughson two-time state champion. Joey LaRosa, while at Hughson, coached former two-time state champion Steve Strange, the Oakdale coach.
170: No qualifiers.
182: Kodiak Stephens, seeded sixth, became the first Bret Harte wrestler since 1976 to win Masters. He’s positioned to reach the quarterfinals. Pitman junior Tal Malhi, Hilmar senior Efrain Duenas and Central Valley sophomore Ruben Valenzuela collide against seeded entries. Top-seeded Nathan Haas of St. John Bosco is the defending champion.
195: Donivan Giangregorio, who is the No. 6 seed and opens in an out-bracket, is Calaveras’ first Masters champion since 1987. Hilmar senior Mark LaBass probably will face top seed Guillermo Escobedo of Los Altos.
220: Pitman junior Juan Mora, who lost to No. 2 seed Peter Ming of Elk Grove in Masters final, could run into No. 3 seed Brandon Leon of Roosevelt in quarterfinals. Mora dropped a 1-point match to Leon earlier this season. Hughson senior Carson Hatch will be an underdog against the No. 5 seed.
285: Turlock grad Michael Jeffus, the 2019 state champion, is succeeded by two surprising state qualifiers: Golden Valley junior Aristeo Prado and Johansen senior Attila Sides. Both open in out-bracket matches against seeded wrestlers from the Southern Section.