Four Gilroy High wrestlers earned individual titles, one took the state’s No. 1-ranked 132-pounder to the brink of upset in the evening’s marquee finale, and the Mustangs won their first team championship since 2008 on another memorable Mid Cals night under the spotlight Saturday.
The 32nd annual Mid Cals Invitational attracted representatives from 74 schools. Gilroy topped them all during the two-day tournament with 299.5 points. Defending champion Selma finished second with 246.5 points. Turlock took third with 226 points.
“Besides the postseason, there is nothing better,” GHS head coach Greg Varela said. “I’ve been talking it up to the kids all week, we are in front of our fans. Let’s have fun, let’s have a good time – let loose and throw it all out there. And they did. They wrestled great.”
Thirteen matches went by before the night’s main event, featuring Gilroy’s Nikko Villarreal (No. 1 in CCS, No. 3 in California) and three-time state champion Alex Cisneros of Selma. The two competitors encountered each other just two weeks ago at the Doc Buchanan Invitational and engaged in an epic dual. Cisneros bested Villarreal 4-3 in overtime.
The crowd had waited nearly three hours. The energy level was palpable. Just as soon as the “Let’s go Nikko” chants were bellowed throughout the pro-Gilroy High crowd, Selma supporters echoed with their own “Let’s go Alex” cheers, adding to the cut-with-a-knife intensity.
“Hearing all the chants, that picks them up,” Varela said.
Another classic ensued as Cisneros, with an escape point at the start of the third period, triumphed for the 140-pound title, 1-0.
“(The approach) was pretty much the same, just be a little more aggressive and stay on the ball,” Cisneros said. “It worked out.”
Though disappointed, Villarreal said he made some critical adjustments from the Doc Buchanan bout, which will serve him well in a possible rematch at the state meet in March.
“It’s frustrating,” Villarreal said. “I would much rather have it a high-scoring match than lose 1-0. But, he just knows how to win. I think this was better than the last time. I definitely learned a couple things.”
Varela, grinning, echoed the sophomore’s assessment.
“It’s a 1-0 loss, but as a coach, I know he’d like to win, but we came away with a lot,” Varela said. “We saw some things that weren’t necessarily there in the first one. On the bottom position, we gained a little ground. Alex is a champion, he knows how to win. He didn’t panic at all. It’s going to take a perfect match to beat him, but I think Nikko could do it.”
Sophomore Paul Fox (No. 1 in the Central Coast Section and No. 5 in California) kick started a string of four champions in a row for the Mustangs with a 10-3 decision over Nick Ortiz of Palo Alto in the 134-pound match.
“It was pretty good. I out-hustled him – just tried to wear him down,” Paul Fox said of his match. “I took some steps forward toward CCS and state.”
Senior Jose Lara secured his first Mid Cals championship with a 4-2 decision victory against Homestead’s Dominic Jackson.
“I wasn’t trying to get tossed by him, because that’s what he could do. So I just wrestled smart and tried to attack when I could,” Lara said.
Sophomore Victor Olmos (No. in CCS) beat Kyle Young of Westmont, 8-2, in the 128-pound final.
“I feel good. I won this at a higher weight,” said Olmos, who will wrestle at 122 pounds as the season continues. “The crowd really pumped me up.”
At 147-pounds, senior Willie Fox, who is California’s No. 1-ranked 145-pounder, avenged a loss to Joey Lavallee at the Reno Tournament of Champions earlier this season and returned the favor for his third consecutive Mid Cals crown, defeating LaVallee, who is ranked No.1 in Nevada, 5-4. The moment wasn’t lost on Fox, whose body language after the fact demonstrated his satisfaction.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I knew that he was an aggressive guy. I had to keep that same tempo. After I got that first take down, I knew I could beat him.”
Willie Fox led 2-1 after the first 2-minute period, 3-1 after the second and eared a two-point takedown in the third for a useable cushion.
Christopher’s Jimmie Lopez, a sophomore and the CCS’s No. 1-ranked 106-pounder, was defeated in the 108-pound final 17-9, placing second for the second year in a row.
“I’m not really bummed. People told me I wrestled good,” Lopez said. “It was a pretty close match.”
With seven weeks before the CIF State Championship meet in Bakersfield, Gilroy is currently ranked fourth in California, according to the latest rankings released Thursday by ccsrank.com.
“There’s coach talk, where it’s like, ‘you guys have to be confident.’ But I really feel confident,” Varela said. “After this win I feel good top to bottom of how we are performing.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Gilroy’s Jesse Vasquez finished third at 108-pounds, defeating Alexis Cortes of Madera South 9-3 in the third-place match. Also placing third was Gilroy’s Aaron Gonzalez at 134 pounds. Gonzalez decisioned Isaac Bertalotto of Turlock, 3-2 in the consolation final. Matthew Penyacsek made the podium in fifth place.
Heavyweight Stevie White (No. 3 in CCS) took third, while John Riffle (No. 4 in CCS) captured fourth place at 222 pounds for the Cougars, who finished 12th – a program best at Mid Cals.
Up next: CHS vs. Pajaro Valley, league dual, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. The Cougars are No. 8 in the section. GHS vs. San Benito, league dual, Feb. 1, 6 p.m. It will also be alumni night. Gilroy is No. 1 in CCS.
108: Adrian Camposano (Central) 26-2, So. over Jimmie Lopez (Christopher ) 21-6, So. (Maj 17-9).
115: Alexis Arciga (Overfelt) 30-3, Sr. over Jason Vladovinos (Turlock) 29-5, Jr. (Maj 9-0).
122: Paul Rodriguez (Oak Grove) 6-0, Sr. over Matthew Ontiveros (Central) 26-9, So. (Dec 2-1).
128: Victor Olmos (Gilroy) 6-0, . over Kyle Young (Westmont) 15-2, Sr. (Dec 8-2).
134: Paul Fox (Gilroy) 6-0, . over Nick Ortiz (Palo Alto) 20-3, Sr. (Dec 10-4).
140: Alex Cisneros (Selma) 6-0, Sr. over Niko Villarreal (Gilroy) 5-1, (Dec 1-0).
147: Willie Fox (Gilroy) 6-0, over Joey Lavallee (Reno) 34-3, Jr. (Dec 5-4).
154: Isiah Morfin (Selma) 6-0, Sr. over Amir Bakshi (Cupertino) 16-4, Sr. (Dec 9-2).
162: Kyle Thorpe (Atwater) 29-3, Jr. over Michael Wright (Dinuba) 22-6, Fr. (2-OT 2-1).
172: Erick Parsons (Turlock) 22-3, Sr. over Kalen Gans (Palo Alto) 18-4, Sr. (Dec 2-0).
184: Jojo Ochoa (Atwater) 22-10, So. over Connor Campbell (Santa Teresa) 13-3, . (Dec 12-7).
197: David Valladares (Castro Valley) 22-8, . over Michael Whittaker (Monta Vista) 22-6, Sr. (Dec 7-5).
222: Kyle Martinez (Pitman) 26-2, Sr. over Deonte Willis (Paso Robles) 31-8, Sr. (Dec 4-2).
287: Jose Lara (Gilroy) 6-0, . over Dominic Jackson (Homestead) 5-1, . (Dec 4-2).
1. Gilroy 299.5
2. Selma 246.5
3. Turlock 226.0
4. Paso Robles 185.0
5. Madera South 163.0
6. Gunn 148.5
7. Riordan 138.0
8. Palma 135.5
9. Palo Alto 130.5
10. Castro Valley 130.0