His eyes are on the prize

Cal State Bakersfield wrestler and Gilroy native Matt Sanchez

By Ana Patejdl
Gilroy
– Former Bellarmine College Prep wrestler and Gilroy native Matt
Sanchez will begin his final quest for an NCAA Division I wrestling
title Thursday in St. Louis.
By Ana Patejdl

Gilroy – Former Bellarmine College Prep wrestler and Gilroy native Matt Sanchez will begin his final quest for an NCAA Division I wrestling title Thursday in St. Louis.

The tenth-seeded Sanchez, a senior at Cal State Bakersfield, will face unseeded T.J. Enright of Ohio State in the first round of the 133-pound bracket.

By taking second place in the Pac-10 Championships last month, Sanchez earned his fourth trip to the NCAA Championships.

The wrestler, who enters the tournament with only five losses this season, said he’s looking to improve on last year’s All-American eighth-place finish.

“I feel good,” Sanchez said. “I’m ready to wrestle and I want to finish on top.”

He would also like to avenge some of his regular season losses – in particular, two overtime heartbreakers that happened in December at the prestigious Midlands Tournament at Northwestern University. The losses hurt his then-No. 5 national ranking.

Of course, it won’t be an easy road for Sanchez, who could face some opponents who tripped him up earlier in the season. One of those wrestlers is No. 2 seed Shawn Bunch of Edinboro College, who edged out Sanchez at the Las Vegas Invitational in December. If both advance, they would meet in the quarterfinals.

Sanchez said he learned a lot about Bunch from that losing match.

“I’ve got his style down,” he said. “He’s real fast, moving around and shooting doubles and all that.”

If he pulls off some upsets, Sanchez could meet his top Pac-10 rival and No. 8 seed Scott Jorgensen of Boise State. Jorgensen, who also must play the giant-killer to meet up with the Gilroy wrestler, upset the top-seeded Sanchez in the Pac-10 133-pound final and the two grapplers have split victories in four meetings this season.

“We both scramble a lot,” Sanchez said of his and Jorgensen’s wrestling styles. “The last time we met (in the Pac-10 final), (Jorgensen) fell into some takedowns at the end of the match. I wrestled the way I wanted to. It was kind of unlucky.”

But first, Sanchez must beat Enright. After Enright, he will likely meet seventh-seeded Nathan Morgan of Oklahoma State.

“Personally,” Sanchez said. “I feel I can beat anyone.”

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