Led by Antioch senior Kyle Clark, who won the 220-pound division, seven BVAL athletes placed in the top four in their weight class, which was required to advance to the state tournament. Clark defeated College Park’s Alex Encarnacion 10-3 in the finals. The top local team was Liberty, which placed four grapplers in the top four, good enough for a third-place finish.
“Going in, I would have been happier with anything better than a fifth place, but we got a banner, which was good for the kids,” Lions head coach Greg Chappel said, referring to the flag that will now decorate the gym at Liberty. “The kids wrestling on that Saturday had big matches after big matches.”
Liberty will send to the state tournament sophomore Devon Lyle (second, 106 pounds), junior Austin Solari (third, 126 pounds), senior Jacob Thompson-Zanarini (second, 132 pounds), senior Xavier Johnson (third, 138 pounds) and senior Zack Hanson (second, 170 pounds).
Joining them will be Clark, as well as Heritage sophomore Joey Vigil, who placed fourth at 106 pounds, losing to Lyle in the quarterfinals before bouncing back.
Clark’s performance ended his injury-plagued season on an upbeat note. It also gave him his first NCS title – last season he lost in the tournament finals. Clark’s run to this season’s finals was dominant: he won his matches 21-3, 19-2, 18-3, 15-3, and 10-3 in the final.
After Liberty, the next best BVAL team was Freedom, which finished 13th. Sophomore Ricky Coster’s fifth-place performance in the 126-pound division was the closest the Falcons came to qualifying a wrestler for state. Rounding out the BVAL’s team contest was Heritage (29th), Antioch (35th), Pittsburg (tied, 36th) and Deer Valley (56th).
The seven remaining grapplers head to this weekend’s state tournament at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. Since the tournament is loaded with the best wrestlers from the most populous state in the nation, Chappel knows better than to speculate about what will happen.
“It wouldn’t kill me if our guys didn’t do that well,” Chappel said. “But they just have to get in there on that first day and get a good feeling – and anything can happen.” If not, then they need to come back the next day and go one match at a time.”
Antioch’s Clark will take on Clovis West’s Cortes Morales in the first round, while Heritage’s Vigil will go up against Johnson Mai from North Torrance. Liberty’s Thompson-Zanarini opposes Woodland’s Michael Lopez, and Hanson will clash with Tyler Gil or Orland. Teammates Lyle, Solari and Johnson received first-round byes.