The Lions could not overcome a powerful De La Salle squad, which finished first with 309 points to Liberty’s 188.50. Six Spartans wrestlers finished in the top spot; no other team boasted more than two titlists.
At the beginning of the season, Lions head coach Greg Chappel said he’d be happy if his team finished in the top three at the NCS finale: “I thought that’s where we belonged. We weren’t going to beat De La Salle; they just had too much horsepower.”
Baldazo finished first in his weight class, defeating Dublin’s Nate Vincent for the title. Nico Serrano, a 135-pound senior, placed second. Xavier Johnson, a 125-pound junior, took home third.
Baldazo is one of six Liberty wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament, held Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield. Jake Thompson-Zanarini (119 pounds), Johnson (125), Serrano (135) and Frankie Hurtado (285) also move on to the next round.
“He’s been our best wrestler and highest-ranked wrestler,” Chappel said of Baldazo. “On top of that, he probably works harder than anybody else. Every day, after he leaves here, he goes and lifts weights with his dad.”
Antioch and Freedom tied for eighth place at the tournament. While neither team placed a wrestler in the top spot, two Panthers finished in second – 160-pound senior Luke Hudson and 215-pound junior Kyle Clark, while the Falcons placed one – 130-pound senior Zack Wiley.
For Antioch, both Hudson and Clark move onto the state tournament, as well as 140-pound senior Joe Baynes. The Falcons send three to the state playoffs, Wiley joining 109-pound freshman Ricky Coster and 119-pound junior Roman Garcia.
Pittsburg placed 16th with 81 points, led by third-place finisher Caesar Garcia, a 285-pound senior, who earned a spot in the state tournament.
Heritage, one of the youngest teams in the Bay Valley Athletic League, finished 31st with 50 points. The Patriots were led by 152-pound senior Clayton Hambrick, who placed third in his weight class. For his efforts, Hambrick will move onto the state tournament on Friday.
Deer Valley notched 13 points, finished 63rd in the field and did not place any wrestlers in the NCS meet.