The Mustangs' Cody Merrill gets some last words from coach Daniel Cormier before the sophomore won the 195-pound final in the Central Coast Section Championships on Feb. 19. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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There was little to no doubt that the Gilroy High boys wrestling team was walking away with its 19th consecutive Central Coast Section title at last week’s wrestling championships. 

The Mustangs put on another exquisite show Feb. 18-19 that had fans inside the gymnasium at Watsonville High cheering and applauding after every swift move or hard takedown.  

Gilroy finished with a winning score of 312.5 for the team title. Los Gatos placed second (217), followed by Saint Francis (167.5) in third, Fremont (142.5) in fourth and Palma (115.5) to round off the top-5.

“It sounds awesome,” said Gilroy junior Micah Porter about winning a CCS team title. “These guys are like my family, they can be my flesh and blood. I love every single one of them, I hope for the best for all of them. We really just push each other to reach new heights and I’m happy I have people like them to wrestle with me out on the mat.”

The Mustangs won another title but it also represented their lowest margin of victory since 2005, when they edged Los Gatos, 186-175. 

Still, the Mustangs had 11 state-qualifiers, and eight of those wrestlers made it to the finals in their respective weight division.

Gilroy did not have a qualifier for the 170-, 220- and 285-pound divisions. 

Porter had the lowest scoring contest on Saturday night after he edged Sobrato High senior Ezekiel Lara in a tight 1-0 decision to capture the 152-pound division tite.

“All my life, I’ve never really been a champion of much but I’m finally on my come-up and I’m going to start being a champion of a lot more things,” he said. 

With the win, Porter earned a state berth to the CIF State Championships at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield, which begins Feb. 24.

Porter said the winning attitude comes from a superior coaching staff that includes head coach Daniel Cormier, a former UFC champion and Olympic wrestler.

Porter mentioned that the training is on another level and he believes it gives him an advantage against his opponents. 

“I really gotta thank everything to my coaches,” he said. “I just feel like I’m above most of these guys. The real competition is at state and I’m ready to go for that.” 

His match against Lara in the championship round wasn’t a walk in the park, though. Porter didn’t score until the second round and he had to hold on to a precarious 1-0 lead for the remainder of the match.

Porter said he’s been working on his riding techniques and it worked out for him throughout the tournament, especially in the finals. 

“Having to ride people out, that’s a big part of wrestling,” he said. “Just being able to keep pressure on top, you can’t give away any free points in big matches. So I just hold them down.”

Porter believes he could’ve been more aggressive on the offensive side and he kept relying on his defense to get him the victory. 

“If I want to do big next week, I’ll have to pick up the pace on offense a little bit more,” he said.

Joining him at the CIF State Championships is freshman Isaiah Cortez who won his 106-pound division title match after he pinned Fremont senior Jayden Bautista.

Cortez’s twin brother, Elijah, won his 113-pound division match in dominant fashion with a 14-0 major decision victory against Milpitas senior Elijah Nguyen.

Daniel Zepeda (126), a freshman, pinned Los Gatos junior Peter Bowen for his gold medal and sophomore Moses Mirabel (132) was victorious in a 5-2 decision over Saint Francis senior Ryan Luna.

Gilroy sophomore Cody Merrill (195 pounds) won his title match in an 11-2 major decision over Lincoln High senior Epoki Fakaosi. Daniel Glenn, a junior, lost in a 6-3 decision to Saint Francis sophomore Bryce Luna for the 120-pound division title. But he still qualified for a state berth.

Other state qualifiers include senior Donte Lopez (138 pounds), who lost in a 4-2 decision to Los Gatos sophomore E.J. Parco. Zack Fierro (145), a junior, defeated Monterey High senior Dylan Chun in a 6-4 decision for third place. Oscar Alfaro (182) also won his third-place match in an 8-6 decision over Palma sophomore JC Escutia. 

Gilroy’s Ruben Le (160) had to take the long route to earn his state berth. He defeated Silver Creek senior Quan Nguyen in an 8-5 decision for third place, but he needed to win five-straight matches in order to get there.

Le won his championship round opener against Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep’s Dylan McKnight. Then he lost in the second round to Riordan’s David Aberoutte, dropping him into the consolation bracket. 

Le began his quest for a state berth with a win in the opening round of the consolation bracket by pinning Milpitas’ Gavin Zamora in 30 seconds. He won by technical fall over Serra’s Francois Ricard, followed by 7-1 decision victory against San Benito’s Karim Yasin and then a 5-2 decision win over Los Gatos’ Nathan Deleon.

In the consolation semis, he defeated Lynbrook’s Christopher Bhardwaj in a 9-6 decision for a spot in the third-place match. 

Porter said the level of competition at the CIF State Championships is extremely different, which means there can be little to no room for errors.

“I can’t have an off-match. Every match has got to be at my peak level performance,” he said. “I have to stay on my game and just do what my coaches trained and I know I’ll find success in that.” 

Gilroy girls team sends three to CIF State Championships

The Mustangs girls team had three state qualifiers starting with sophomore Kaiulani Garcia, who pinned Wilcox freshman Angelinah De Leon in 1 minute, 18 seconds for the 160-pound division crown.

She was satisfied with the win, which Garcia said she was already expecting prior to entering the tournament. But she was more disappointed, and angry, with the fact that she was ranked as the No. 2 seed going into the CCS Championships.

It was all the fuel she needed to get her to the championship match and the win for the gold medal.

“Whoever ranked me there, I just couldn’t help but think they were really underestimating me,” she said. “I just had to go over there and prove them wrong. That’s exactly what I wanted to do and I did it.” 

She said she understood the ranking only because she hasn’t had a lot of time on the mat. So, that just meant she had to go out there and perform well, according to Garcia.

“I actually showed who I am because there were a lot of people super doubting me because of how I wrestled last year,” Garcia said.

Garcia mentioned she didn’t have the proper training at the time. Plus, it didn’t help that the Covid-19 pandemic impacted last season and she was doing distance learning for most of the school year.

However, all of that has changed this season. Garcia believes she’s wrestling at a high level and for once she didn’t get stage fright when she hit the mat.

“Now I’m able to wrestle, now I’m able to actually compete and now I have the proper training and everything,” she said.

Jennifer Soto, a senior, won her 126-pound division title match in a 4-2 decision against Palo Alto senior Ella Jauregui. 

Valerie Glenn, a junior, lost to Westmont senior Jazzy Vega in a 5-1 decision for the 121-pound division title, but she still qualified for a trip to the CIF State Championships. 

Garcia said she doesn’t want to place just anywhere on the podium and is training hard to win a state title. 

“I really want to win state and there’s a super shot of me winning state,” she said. “I want to perform as well as I did here over there at state, I don’t want to get stage fright…my mindset’s pretty much the same. I think I’m going to win state and all I have to do is just go out there and put it on paper.”

Gilroy’s freshmen sensation duo of twins Elijah and Isaiah Cortez ran roughshod over their competition in the Central Coast Section Wrestling Championships. Isaiah won the 106-pound division and Elijah 113. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Kaiulani Garcia gets her arm raised in victory after wining the 160-pound CCS title. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Jennifer Soto prepares to take down her Palo Alto opponent in the 126-pound final. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Micah Porter won a nail-biting 1-0 decision over Sobrato’s Ezekiel Lara in the 152-pound final. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Juan Reyes can be reached at [email protected]

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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