The Lions sent six wrestlers to Clovis for the Doc B. While only one of the six placed in the prestigious event, each won at least one match and showed promise while wrestling against some of the best competition in California. Last season’s top 15 programs in California competed at the invitational, and the seedings for each weight bracket resembled projected seedings for the state championships in March.
According to head coach Greg Chappel, the invitational gives a fair estimation of the competition at the state level. That’s a good sign for junior Jesse Baldazzo, who worked his way back through the consolation bracket after losing his opening match to finish eighth in the field. Baldazzo won three consecutive matches in the consolation bracket, including an overtime victory over the third-seeded wrestler, Travis Arreguin of Healdsburg, who finished ahead of Baldazzo at the NCS Championships in 2009.
“He’s likely a state qualifier,” said Chappel of the junior who wrestled at 145 pounds over the weekend. “He could win some matches at state this year, and will likely end up wrestling at 140 this post-season.”
Chappel referred to the fact that Baldazzo actually weighed in a few pounds under the limit for his current weight class, making the move down a class seem natural in order to bolster his chances at the state level. Baldazzo also recently finished seventh at the rigorous Sierra Nevada Classic, which was held over the holidays and included 90 teams from all over the West Coast plus Idaho and Wyoming.
Other top performances at the Doc Buchanan included Nico Serrano’s two victories in the 135-pound weight class, including a win over 11th-seeded Miguel Rodriguez of Madera. Serrano placed eighth at the Sierra Nevada Classic and won the Lou Bronzan Invitational during the break. Austin Solari (103), Paul Gomez (112), Xavier Johnson (130) and Tyler Blank (285) each won one match at the Doc Buchanan. Chappel was especially impressed by Johnson and Solari, each wrestling at the varsity level for the first time this season.
“Xavier’s a new wrestler to this level of competition, and lost by just one to the 12th-ranked wrestler in his opening match,” said Chappel. “Solari lost to two older opponents and is getting better each week, benefiting from the competition between him and Paul (Gomez) during practice.”
Solari, a freshman, defeated a tough Central Section opponent in his first consolation match, and earlier this season won the Bronzan title. Johnson, meanwhile, finished 6-2 at the Sierra Nevada Classic, just two victories away from placing after losing his opening match. Gomez won his opening match at the Doc B before falling to seventh-seeded Vince Herrera. Blank also registered an impressive performance at the Sierra Nevada, going 3-2, both losses to medalists at the tournament.
The Lions now turn their attention to team goals such as a Bay Valley Athletic League title and a run at another NCS championship. Liberty hosted Antioch in a dual meet on Wednesday, the results of which were not available at press time. The BVAL Championships will be held Feb. 18.