Gilroy High wrestling coach Greg Varela said this past weekend’s 35th annual Doc Buchanan Invitational – a tournament that hosts the who’s, who of California’s top-ranked wrestlers – served as a mid-term-like indicator as the season makes a turn for crunch time. The Mustangs are sitting above the curve.
Senior Willie Fox avenged a loss to Bakersfield’s Natrelle Deminson that ended his 2011 state tournament and earned the 145-pound championship – his first Doc B title – Saturday in Clovis. Meanwhile, sophomore Niko Villarreal, a defending Doc B champ – took national power, and three-time state titleholder Alex Cisneros of Selma to four overtime periods in the 138-pound final, eventually losing 4-3.
“You can’t get too high about it, but we are on pace,” Varela said. “It’s like I’m waiting for the first day of school. I just want to get these guys back in the room and get to work again. That was probably the toughest Doc B field, and that’s saying a lot. Their hard work is starting to pay off. But they have more in the tank, they know that, and that’s what makes me even more happy.”
Fox’s path to the finals included a 9-3 decision victory over the state’s No. 1-ranked wrestler in the 145-pound division, Adam Hendrickson of Healdsburg, in the quarterfinals. Fox, who is No. 4 in the state – a ranking that could very well change come Wednesday when the latest numbers are released by ccsrank.com – outlasted Deminson (No. 2 at 138-pounds) 6-4 for the crown.
“It’s a good confidence booster for him,” Varela said.
Villarreal’s encounter with Cisneros was a vast improvement over the pairs’ last meeting in March at the 2011 state tournament, where Cisneros knocked Villarreal out of title contention, 11-2. Villarreal went on to place third last year.
“Alex Cisneros is the man. He is a true champion and has never lost to a California kid,” Varela said. “We had a strategy. We really wanted to push it and get (Cisneros) out of his comfort zone. And it could’ve gone either way.”
Villarreal, who is No. 3 in the division, made his way through a stacked bracket that included No. 1 Shayne Tucker of Bella Vista. Villarreal pinned the junior in the second period to clinch a spot in the finals. Tucker beat Villarreal in Reno in December.
“Niko came out on fire – came out motivated,” Varela said of the semifinals win.
Varela added that a Cisneros-Villarreal part three may occur at the Mid-Cals in two weeks, as Selma is expected to participate in the local tournament.
Sophomore Paul Fox placed third at 132-pounds, defeating Martin Ramirez (No. 1-ranked 126 pounder) 4-3 for the bronze. An earlier loss to Javier Gasca III (No. 3 at 126 pounds) in the quarterfinals, sent Paul Fox into the consolation bracket. It was a bit of retribution for Gasca, who lost to Paul Fox in the finals of last season’s Mid-Cals. Gasca (Kingsburg) ended up winning the Doc B championship Saturday. Fellow sophomore Victor Olmos (120 pounds) made the podium in seventh place. Senior heavyweight Jose Lara went 2-2.
The Mustangs placed fifth as a team. The top-10 finishers are as follows: 1. Clovis (205); 2. Bakersfield (115); 3. Poway (111.5); 4. Roseburg-OR (111.5); 5. Gilroy (88); 6. Vacaville (81); 7. St. John Bosco (73); 8. Clovis West (70); 9. Lemoore (62.5); 10. Folsom (53.5).
• The rest of the Mustangs squad was at the Watsonville Apple Cider Classic and represented GHS with an eighth-place showing. Aaron Gonzalez (132) and Lupe Jimenez (145) placed the highest for GHS – each finishing runner-up.
• Gilroy resumes its Tri-County Athletic League dual meet circuit Wednesday at Salinas, then hosts Palma on Jan. 18 – two days before the Mid-Cals. An alumni event is planned for the TCAL finale against San Benito on Feb. 1.
• Four Christopher High wrestlers participated at Doc B. Sophomore Jimmie Lopez (106), currently ranked No. 25 in the state, went 1-2, Ricardo Bribiescas (132) went 0-2, John Riffle (220) finished 2-2, as did heavyweight Stevie White.