As the Mustangs made it a foregone conclusion that they would win an unprecedented 15-straight team titles with nine wrestlers going to state among six champions and setting a team scoring record along the way—Christopher quietly added to that number with three wrestlers qualifying for state.
With the Cougars and Mustangs combined, 12 from the Garlic Capital will represent the South County in Bakersfield.
Adam Mena, Antonio Gomez and—thanks to an unexpected upset—Anthony Figueroa all are moving on to the state championships, the most Christopher has sent.
“It’s been an incredible year. For us to take three to the finals, I’m very happy. From where we were eight years ago to where we were when we started the season, it’s been a real happy ending to the section tournament,” said coach Alexis Lara.
And on the night when Lara saw his team achieve its greatest success under his tenure, he also announced he will not return next year, saying he wanted to spend more time with his young children.
“I couldn’t have had it any better,” Lara said. “Have three in the finals, take sixth in CCS and there is just one division. This is a picture perfect ending for me.”
With them from Gilroy is a crop of nine wrestlers, among whom five did not go to the state championships last year.
Included in that mix was Tony Andrade who was injured in his sophomore year and had to fight himself and the injury on his way back.
Coach Greg Varela called it a true Disney story.
Varela said when Andrade got into the wrestling season, he was not in the shape he needed to be and the road back was difficult. Varela said there were times when he had to talk Andrade into competing at tournaments or even attending practice.
“I’m walking to the school and I saw him sitting in the rain. I said, ‘what are you doing, you’re going to miss practice?’ He said ‘I’m not wrestling anymore.’ I said yeah you are,” Varela recalled. “I just happened to find him. I was in the office and he’s in there. I walked him back to the room. He struggled, but he had to go through with that.”
Gilroy’s assistant coaches worked with Andrade, taking all the punishment the 195-pound wrestler had to give just to get his confidence back up.
Andrade marked his return with a bang, earning pins in all four of his matches.
In the semifinals, he jumped out big on Matthew McLean from Los Gatos and didn’t let up.
He cut McLean to get a better grip of his opponent and it paid off with a takedown for a pin.
In the finals, Andrade was in a tight battle with San Benito’s Michael Camacho, but in the third period he found his way.
Andrade got the turn on Camacho and scored the pin.
Joining Andrade as first time state wresters are Nicholas Villarreal (170), Nathan Villarreal (145), Daniel Vizcara (126) and Chase Saldate (120).
Nicholas is also a first time champion when he bested Christopher’s Mena with a first round pin.
He said being able to go up against Mena was something special because the two wrestlers grew up together.
“Especially against him because he’s like a brother,” Nicholas said. “I was really excited because two Gilroy guys making it to the finals and going to state.”
Mena breezed through the first rounds of CCS, earning two pins to advance to the quarterfinals and earning a dominating 20-1 techfall win to advance to the semis.
Mena dispatched with Evergreen’s Carlos Jimenez, who was seeded third, with a pin 13 seconds into the second round.
Nicholas likewise breezed through the first three rounds, earning pins all in less than 40 seconds.
That changed when he got into the semis, having to settle for a 15-0 tech fall against Aptos’ Keegan Dutton-Jones.
Meanwhile, Vizcara took second—and improvement over his fourth place finish from a year ago—and Saldate took third.
Returning to state are Nic Aguilar (113), Alex Felix (132), John fox (138) and Joe Barnes (160).
Aguilar defended his 106-pound title with a perfect run through the 113-pound bracket.
Aguilar wrestled all of 37 seconds in the first day of competition, earning two pins. In the second day, he earned pins in the first round in both of his matches leading up to the championship round.
He had to wrestle the hardest there against Alvarez’ Riley Siason, who took him to the second round. But at the 57-second mark Aguilar put an end to the match with a pin.
Fox is not just returning to state, but he made up for losing last year in the finals to pull out a CCS title this year.
“I feel like I redeemed myself from the mistake of getting pinned last year by (Isaiah) Palomino,” Fox said. “I was really happy with this. I really dominated in my matches to get here. Now that the finals are here, I felt great. I had the conditioning for it. … I got what I deserved. I worked hard for this.”
Felix and Barnes both defended titles with pins in their respective brackets.
Barnes pinned his way to a championship with Felix going 4-0 with two pins and a pair of tech falls.
Gilroy had by far the most state qualifiers of any team from CCS and easily surpassed 2015’s team points record. The Mustangs’ nine state qualifiers was only matched if you took the three teams tied for second and combined them. Christopher with Everett Alvarez and Bellarmine all had three qualify. Five others had two and 14 others had one.
“We challenged them and made goals to really push ourselves,” Varela said. “We beat our pin total last year in the quarters. We told them all I want pins all the way through. We challenged them all to do it.”
The Mustangs won their 15th team title in a row with 297.5 points, needing just one more win to break 300, which will be the goal going forward Varela said.
“We broke the record. That’s always the goal we set at the beginning of the year, and we beat it,” Varela said. “We bring everybody back and we’re going to try to break it again.”
But at some point, Gilroy wants to set a record for the ages, Nicholas Villarreal said.
“It feels good to set the bar again, and hopefully it will never break again,” he said. “Not even us next year.”
Cougars state qualifiers
For Christopher, all three wrestlers advanced thanks to strong lead ups to the finals.
Figueroa helped set a tone for what the Cougars will need to do at state when he pulled an upset at 152 pounds, defeating Dallas Gutierrez of Gilroy with a reversal of fortune in the third round, literally.
Figueroa trailed 3-2 going into the third period and was in the down position to start the round.
With about a minute to go, Gutierrez scored a reversal and rode out the round for a 4-3 upset win.
At 220 pounds, Gomez easily got into the second day of competition with two pins and then had to work in the third.
He won his quarterfinals and semis by a combined five points, winning 7-4 and 5-3, respectively.
Gomez actually needed a late take down in the semis to finally punch his ticket to the finals and to state.
And in the finals, Gomez lost by pinfall, but could hold his head high because he did something no one else could do to Bellarmine’s Victor Jaquez during the tournament.
“He took the guy down. He’s the only guy who was able to take him down the whole tournament,” Lara said. “We know he can hang with these guys. He can battle with these guys at state—at CCS and state levels—he just has to stick to the game plan. If he sticks to the game plan, he can put points up against the state guys.”
Gutierrez took fifth at 152 pounds, hitting a bit of bad luck starting in the semifinals when he took on a familiar foe in Figueroa.
After falling 4-3, Gutierrez got caught in the consol semis and fell by pin to be denied a chance to wrestle for third.
But he got one last chance for a win, which he got against San Benito’s Matt Ramon in a 13-2 win for fifth.
Finally for Gilroy, Ryan Encincio had to wrestle the No. 2 seed in his second match.
After scoring a pin to open the tournament, he lost a 7-3 decision to drop to the consolation bracket.
While there, Encino scored a pin to open things up and advanced to the fourth round of the consols with a 4-2 win.
But that was as far as he went, losing 12-1 to Nicholas Ozden of Menlo-Atherton.
Other Christopher wrestlers
Nathan Alvarez (113 pounds) opened the tournament with a pinfall over Ray Rendon of Mitty before he dropped his next two bouts to bow out of the tournament.
At 126 pounds, Evan Duran made a run at qualifying for a state bid out of the consolation bracket, winning two matches after falling in his tournament opener.
Duran scored a 7-0 decision in his first Consol match and followed that with a 9-3 win in the second match.
But he eventually succumb to a pin in his final bout.
At 132 pounds, Keoni Calimpong Dominguez got matched up against the No. 2 seed to open the tournament, falling in a 9-2 secision.
Dominguez rebounded with a pin to open the consol bracket, but eventually bowed out at 1-2 with a 7-2 loss.
Finally, Collins Okoronkwo went 4-2 at heavyweight, earning an overtime win to kick off the tournament.
But he fell to the consolation bracket after a pin, where he won his next three matches, including two pinfalls.
Okoronkwo nearly advanced to the consol semis—which would have assured him a medal—but with three seconds remaining in the first period of his match, he was eventually pinned.