Leif Dominguez (105), Paul Fox (121), Niko Villarreal (132),
Willie Fox (137) and Blake Kastl (142) all earned their rightful
spots at the top of the podium, helping GHS to second place with
Neither guy budged. Visibly, each wrestler studied the other – when to shoot, where to guard.
Hunkered down in a proverbial chess match with Reno’s Joey Lavallee, Gilroy junior Blake Kastl looked to his corner after the two grapplers traveled out of bounds.
Crouched on his knees, Kastl’s eyes blankly fixated on his coaches. No words were exchanged, just a couple of hand signals. Fatigue had begun to set in. Kastl knew it.
“I was tired, but I have been working on getting in shape every day in practice since the last time I wrestled (Lavallee). I knew I would get tired, but it’s mostly mental. I knew I had to push through it. There was only a minute left.”
On the restart, Kastl picked up a crucial escape point, which pushed the junior past Lavallee 3-2, avenging an overtime loss earlier this season in the semifinals of the Reno Tournament of Champions.
“He’s a go-er. He never stops moving. He’s always in good position,” Kastl said of his opponent. “That was a big win. This season hasn’t been going the way I wanted it. I haven’t been to the finals until here. It feels good to get back on top where I think I belong.”
Kastl and four other Mustangs entered the finals of the 31st annual Mid Cal Invitational on Saturday night at Gilroy High School and all five exited as champions.
Leif Dominguez (105), Paul Fox (121), Niko Villarreal (132), Willie Fox (137) and Kastl (142) all earned their rightful spots at the top of the podium, helping GHS to second place with 288 points. Selma, the state’s No. 3-ranked team, took first for the second time in three years, accumulating 321 points, including three individual champs.
“It’s our tournament in our house and we wanted to show everyone what we could do,” Willie Fox said. “We have prepared for this tournament and wanted to do good.”
As 5 p.m. approached the house lights lowered and a bright spotlight illuminated the mat for 14 heart-pounding finals matches. Twenty-eight wrestlers who endured nearly 20 hours of competition to get to this point at one more bout separating them from title glory.
The stands quickly filled and a buzz floated through Bob Hagen Memorial Gymnasium.
Ah, yes, that familiar feeling of the Mid Cal finals. Fans’ anticipation had been brewing and was soon rewarded.
Kicking off the night’s festivities with a bang, Dominguez defeated Christopher High’s Jimmie Lopez 11-2 in the battle of local grapplers.
“He didn’t lose on being out of shape or giving up. I’m proud of him,” CHS head coach Alexcis Lara said of his standout freshman who, until the finals, hadn’t lost this season. “He helped put Christopher on the map. He’s only going to get better.”
CHS finished 21st overall.
Lopez took out the tournament’s No.2 -seed en route to the finals appearance against his former Gilroy Hawks teammate.
“It was kind of weird, because he used to be my partner, but other than that it was just another match,” said Dominguez, who improved from a disappointing 0-2 at last year’s Mid Cals.
Freshman Paul Fox, who was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights, upset the state’s No. 1-ranked 119-pounder Javier Gasca of Central, 6-2.
“Paul has been struggling all year with his scrambling. (Gasca) is probably one of the better scramblers in the state and Paul beat him at his own game. I never would have thought that could have happened,” GHS head coach Greg Varela said. “He never gave that guy a chance to attack.”
Paul Fox, who will dip down to 114 pounds for the section and state meet, said he said he too a defensive into offensive approach in defeating Gasca.
“I wanted to be defensive then work to my offense,” he said. “He’s really good. I’m not any better than anybody else right now. I just have to keep wrestling like I have been.”
Willie Fox, made it two straight Mid Cal championships after pinning Kevan Garcia of Paso Robles in the 137-pound final.
“I didn’t really get it the first two years,” Willie Fox said of how he has matured as a wrestler. “Now I know what it’s all about.”
Villarreal built a commanding 18-4 lead over Alisal’s Luis Cessa before finishing the match for good with a pin at 5:15.
“It’s a really good tournament,” Villarreal said. “I’m really excited. I’m going to try to win it four years, but you know, one year at a time.”
A Tri-County Athletic dual meet with Palma is next for the Mustangs at home Wednesday night. After that the Overfelt Classic will conclude the Mustangs’ tournament run as they get ready for their final dual at San Benito, TCAL Championships, CCS and state. A busy six weeks.
“This was a great way to get that wave going toward the postseason,” Varela said.
105: Leif Dominguez of Gilroy won by major decision over Jimmie Lopez of Christopher 11-2.
114: Lupe Florez of Selma won by decision over Pablo Rodriguez of Mount Pleasant 10-4.
121: Paul Fox of Gilroy won by decision over Javier Gasca of Central 6-2.
127: Alex Cisneros of Selma won by decision over Enrique Barajas of Arroyo 5-1.
132: Niko Villarreal of Gilroy won by pin over Luis Cessa of Alisal in 5:15.
137: Willie Fox of Gilroy won by pin over Kevan Garcia of Paso Robles in 3:17.
142: Blake Kastl of Gilroy won by decision over Joey Lavallee of Reno 3-2.
154: Stefan Weidemann of Gunn won by decision over Isiah Morfin of Selma 3-0.
162: Adam Busch of Castro Valley won by decision over Kalen Gans of Palo Alto 7-2.
173: Justin Lozano of Selma won by pin over Calvin Nicholls of South San Francisco in 1:29.
191: Logan Kellogg of San Lorenzo Valley won by decision over Josh Castillo of Watsonville 6-5.
217: Scott Brasil of Mount Pleasant won by decision over Kyle Martinez of Pitman 9-4.
287: Andres Quintero of Los Banos won by pin over Gustavo Ramirez of Sobrato in 3:19.
Final team scores: Top 21
1. Selma 321.0
2. Gilroy 288.0
3. Alisal 210.0
4. Paso Robles 197.5
5. Madera South 175.0
6. San Benito 168.0
7. Pitman 165.0
8. Central 160.5
9. Los Banos 147.0
10. Buhach Colony 117.0
11. Dos Palos 112.0
12. El Camino 108.0
13. Archbishop Riordan 104.5
14. South San Francisco 101.5
15. San Lorenzo Valley 98.0
16. Oak Grove 97.0
17. Junipero Serra 96.5
18. Castro Valley 96.0
19. Palma 96.0
20. Buchanan 95.5
21. Christopher 92.5
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