WRESTLING: Mustangs advance three to finals at state

Willie Fox takes on Bryan Salinas in the semifinals. Fox won 4-2.

Last week the number was 10, as in 10 straight section championships. On Saturday morning in Bakersfield, the magic number was 3. In a span of 20 minutes  three Gilroy High semifinalists became a trio of finalists and are one win away from a CIF State Wrestling championship.

Sophomore Paul Fox (126-pounds), sophomore Nikko Villarreal (132) and senior Willie Fox (145) all triumphed in the semifinals to advance to tonight’s state finals at 7:15 p.m. at Rabobank Arena.

The three finalists are the most Gilroy has sent into the title round at one state meet in school history, head coach Greg Varela said.

GHS is in fourth place with 86 points after the championship semifinals. Clovis is well ahead of everyone with 226.5 points.

“It’s really cool. It’s what I dreamed about since I started wrestling with these guys,” said Willie Fox, who defeated No. 6 Bryan Salinas (Northview), 4-2.

“My ultimate goal is to win,” Willie Fox said.

His opponent in the finals is No. 2 Alex Abono of De La Salle.

Villarreal, who placed third in 2011, kept GHS supporters in the edge of their seats during his eventual third-period fall victory over No. 3 Javier Gasca of Kingsburg.

Trailing, 1-0 entering the third, Villarreal, ranked No. 2, spent much of the period trying to earn an escape point. He did that, but moments after gave up two points via takedown.

A tangled exchange ensued. As time ticked to 20 seconds left in the match, Villarreal had to make a move. And he did. He managed to reverse Gasca to his back and get the pin with eight seconds left, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“My go-behinds weren’t going so I couldn’t get my two (points for a takedown), so I just went for it. It worked out, thank God,” Villarreal said. “It was a real adrenaline rush.”

Villarreal will face three-time state champion Alex Cisneros of Selma, whose credentials also includes an undefeated record against California wrestlers. Cisneros beat Villarreal twice earlier this season – 4-3 in overtime at Doc B and 1-0 at Mid Cals.

“This is what I have trained for. This is what I wanted. I’m ready for it. Worst I can do is second,” Villarreal said.

One mat to the right, Paul Fox was engaged in his semifinals dual with No. 3 Joshua Rodriguez (Righetti), a returning state runner-up. The match played out close wire-to-wire, but Fox earned a key takedown in the third and held on for a 3-1 decision.

“That guy was the strongest guy I have faced. He was a monster – a good all-around wrestler. But so am I,” said Paul Fox, who is listed in the tournament guide as the sixth-ranked 126-pounder. “ It came down to that last period and I wanted it.”

He will challenge No. 1 Anthony Valencia of St. John Bosco in the finals.

All three appeared relaxed moments after their wins. They have about an 8-hour wait before the finals get underway.

How calm are they?

“I’m just going to eat and relax,” Willie Fox said.

Villarreal followed, “I’m going to go grub.”

And Paul, “I’m going to eat and drink and think about what I’m going to do.”

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