Triumph and agony; Mustangs leave nothing behind at state championships

Senior Jesse Delgado puts Vincent Herrera in an awkward spot as

BAKERSFIELD – The 2010 CIF State Wrestling Championships began
with 560 wrestlers representing 276 schools fighting toward one
– a state title.
BAKERSFIELD – The 2010 CIF State Wrestling Championships began with 560 wrestlers representing 276 schools fighting toward one dream – a state title.

After a grueling two-day, stomach-turning, all-out emotional roller coaster – where many wrestlers wore their efforts on their bodies with a cut or bruise somewhere on his face – just 14 individuals left Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield as state champion. This year, though, there would be no Gilroy High wrestler with the gold medal around his neck.

At perhaps the most gut-wrenching and highly unpredictable tournament in the state, eight Mustangs grapplers battled to the best of their abilities against a field packed with title contenders.

The looks on the faces of the Mustangs’ wrestling camp exiting the arena toward the end of the second day of competition told stories of heartache, frustration and disappointment.

There was no sign of a team that just topped 270 other schools to clinch its sixth straight top–10 finish.

“I expected three of us, at least, to be in the finals,” said senior Dominic Kastl, who finished a personal best fourth place. “I thought all eight of us should have placed. I’ve been a part of a lot of teams and we worked harder than any other team I’ve been on. I don’t know, it’s just hard.”

A sixth-place team-finish and three medal winners out of the eight didn’t sit well with a visibly downtrodden bunch, whose aspirations and expectations were much higher.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about it without crying,” first-year head coach Greg Varela said. “I just feel like I let them down a little bit. They deserved it. I know how much they put in. They trained so hard.

“When the whole team doesn’t fulfill the goals that were set, you start looking at the top,” Varela continued. “We’ll learn from it and I’ll evaluate what I did wrong.”

By the end of Day 1, Friday, the Mustangs had five wrestlers still alive in the tournament – three in the consolation bracket and two in the championship portion – and for the most part, the tournament seemed to be headed in a favorable direction as GHS sat in third place three points behind the leader.

Blake Kastl joined his brother Dominic in contention for the title, both going an undefeated 3-0 to set up their semifinals matches on Day 2.

However, defending state champion and No. 1-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds, Jesse Delgado, had his repeat hopes derailed in the quarterfinals.

The four-time CCS champ and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-bound senior ran into a difficult opponent, the state’s third-ranked grappler at 125, Vince Rodriguez of Clovis North.

Delgado and Rodriguez were deadlocked 6-6 in the third period before Rodriguez rattled off a two takedowns and a three-point near fall to advance with a 13-7 decision victory.

“My coaches wanted me to attack more,” Delgado said after the match. “It’s a coulda, shoulda, woulda, maybe I could have kept (attacking). It’s always disappointing to lose, but I’ve won before and I will wrestle again.”

Rodriguez went on to wrestle in the finals but lost to Clovis West’s Chris Martinez, 3-1, and Delgado finished fourth to reach the podium for the fourth consecutive time.

Day 2 unraveled rather quickly for the Mustangs as seniors Rodney Balajadia and Vicente Aboytes, who each had solid first days, posting 4-1 marks, saw their medal hopes dashed in the fifth consolation round. Both dropped their initial matches of the day to end their tournament one round shy of a medal.

The bad luck continued an hour later as the semifinals began.

Squaring off against No. 3-ranked David Ferry of Central Catholic (Modesto) Blake Kastl built an early 2-0 lead and looked to be on his way to holding that advantage into the third period when Ferry earned two pints for a reversal with less than 10 seconds in the second period, a critical turn of events in the match.

After an exchange that left the combatants outside of the circle, Blake did not get up, banging his fist on the mat, grasping his knee and visibly in pain.

Though he was hurting, Blake returned to the center of the mat for the restart but was unable to get the points he needed to advance, collapsing to the mat after a 4-3 defeat.

“I’ve beaten that kid before,” Blake said, speaking only a few words at a time as he stared off into oblivion as matches continued on the mats below. “That reversal I gave up in the last few seconds is what is the most disappointing.”

As for his knee, “I’ll probably get surgery.”

Kastl had to injury default the rest of his matches and claimed sixth place.

Minutes later his older brother Dominic encountered Bakersfield’s Bryce Hammond. The two wrestlers were both ranked No. 1 in the state at 160 pounds at various times this season with Kastl holding that distinction heading into the state meet, according to The California Wrestler.

Kastl fell behind 3-0 heading into the third period and had trouble negotiating Hammond’s defensive wrestling. However, Kastl notched a two-point takedown late in the third, allowed an escape then received a point on a warning to Hammond to pull within one point. Time was the nemesis at that junction and Kastl couldn’t get the match-changing points, losing 4-3.

“I’m disappointed. I feel like I should have won the whole thing,” Dominic said with a clear displeasure after his final match of the day, a 6-3 decision loss to No. 6-ranked Nikko Reyes of Clovis West in the 160-pound consolation final. “That last match shouldn’t have even been close. I should have killed him.

“I was looking at (the tournament) to win and when you look at it to win the placing comes,” Dominic continued regarding his fourth-place finish. “In the future I will look at it as a good thing, but right now it’s hard to swallow.”

Sophomore Willie Fox finished 3-2 and freshman Leif Dominguez had a solid state meet debut going 2-2. Senior Luis Barragan wrapped up his final appearance at state with a 2-2 record.

“Of course I can say that I wish the outcome had been a little different, but I am not disappointed in these kids,” Varela said. “They gave me their best and that’s all I could ask for. I just want to thank all the parents who helped me all season. This was a great group.”

Team Results:

1. Bakersfield – 126

2. Selma – 113.5

3. Clovis – 97

4. Lemoore – 94

5. Poway – 93.5

6. Gilroy – 89

7. Calvary Chapel – 82.5

8. Clovis West – 76

9. De La Salle – 62

10. Vacaville – 60.5

Elk Grove – 60.5

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