Two of Greg Chappel’s wrestlers made it to the second day of competition and were one match away from advancing to the Top 8 and earning medals. No shame in that, Chappel said, as Xavier Johnson (138 pounds) and Austin Solari (126) overachieved.
“They were better than expected; they really wrestled over where they were ranked,” Chappel said. “I felt really good about where they ended up.”
The main story, though, was Antioch 220-pounder Kyle Clark, who came within 16 seconds of making it to the title match and finished third. Clark was leading 4-3 in the final minute against West Valley-Cottonwood competitor Austin Lobsinger (last year’s second-place winner) but drew stalling warnings against him. He was forced to keep working, instead of completely switching into a defensive mode.
Lobsinger was able to execute a perfect lateral throw, putting Clark on his back and making up the points he needed to win 8-4 thanks to a takedown and three nearfall points.
“I should have won. I had to tie up with him because I didn’t want to stall. I knew he had that throw in him,” said Clark, who qualified for the state meet last year as well. “It was still a major success for me (taking third). Last year I was nervous but this year it was just like any other tournament. Last year I sat around in between matches; this year I warmed up a lot more on the practice mats.”
Clark, a North Coast Section champ coached by Ben McCorriston and Kurtis Starnes, won the third-place match 13-8 over Wasco’s Sean Medley. He finished the tournament with a 6-1 record and his Friday results included a pin in 2:46, a 9-8 decision, a pin in 3:35 and a 9-5 victory over Tyler Smith of Marina, who finished seventh. Clark’s sole effort earned Antioch a tie for 42nd place in the team standings with 22 points.
Liberty’s Johnson battled through the difficult consolation bracket after dropping a 9-4 decision to start his Friday. He won his next three: a 5-4 decision, an injury default and an 11-10 decision. But it came to an end Saturday morning, as Jason Ladd of Clovis (who finished fifth) pinned Johnson with a cradle in 2:08.
“I wanted to medal but fell short,” said Johnson, a senior ranked No. 22 in the state entering the tournament but who finished in the Top 12. “After I fell into consolation I had a feeling that I needed to pick it up. It pushed me. I’m a little disappointed in myself but happy because outside people think I did good.”
Johnson will try to walk-on at Cal Poly, and Chappel believes Johnson could do it. “He has a huge upside in college,” he said. “I hope he sticks with it and learns more. He’s a kid who down the road could win at the NCAA level.”
Solari also came within one win of placing. And like Johnson, he made the Top 12 despite being ranked No. 17. His day began with a huge win against Carter High’s Casper Sherow.
Solari, a junior, won 3-2 against Sherow in overtime – a surprise to him and his coach. “Austin had a great match. His weakness is on his feet when people come out at him, and he was able to stop that kid; that was big,” Chappel said about his junior, who went 0-2 as a freshman at the state meet. “He did a great job in the tournament. It was good to get the monkey off his back to win, and he’s set himself up good for next year.”
Solari dropped his next match 10-0 to Gilroy’s Paul Fox (who finished second) before winning 3-0 and 5-0 to make it to Saturday’s competition. It all came undone, though, against Vicente Hernandez of Clovis in an 8-2 loss. Hernandez finished eighth.
“I thought I was good (as a freshman) and then went 0-2. I got to see the level of competition you need to be at in this tournament,” said Solari, who went 3-2. “I like to think I’ll do well next year. If I work hard enough and keep my mind to it, I could maybe win it all.”
Liberty’s Jacob Zanarini-Thompson (132) also qualified and won a match before finishing 1-2. He lost by pin in 5:03 but then rifled off a quick 32-second pin of James Lick-San Jose’s Dario Gamino before losing 17-1.
Zack Hanson (170) also won his first match 6-4 over Northern Section champ Tyler Gil of Orland. Clovis state champion Zach Nevills pinned Hanson in 1:21 in the next match, and his day ended in a tight 6-5 loss to Greg Meline of Edison-Huntington Beach.
Teammate Devon Lyle qualified at 106 but did not make the trip. His team earned 18 points to finish tied for 55th.
Joey Vigil of Heritage made it to state at 106 but got no help, drawing defending state champion Johnson Mai of North Torrance in his first match, which Vigil lost in a pin at 1:44.Vigil then fell 6-2 to Anthony Soto of Colony-Ontario to end his day.