Kern County had just three state medalists at this year's edition of the CIF State Wrestling Championships, an abnormally low total; but three other local wrestlers came oh-so-close to joining them.
Liberty senior Jake Maas, who ended Friday's competition by winning four consecutive bouts after losing his first match, was eliminated by Covina-Northview's Bryan Salinas, ranked No. 3 in the state by The California Wrestler, by a score of 14-5. Had he won, he would have been guaranteed a top-eight finish and a coveted state medal.
"He had a hell of a run," Liberty coach Kyle Plummer said. "He was able to prove he was the best 160-pounder in the area and ultimately show what he was made of. I'm glad we got to see one last shot of him."
Foothill's 113-pounder Fern Perez, a junior, was also eliminated from the tournament one match away from placing. Perez wrestled a close 2-1 match but was defeated by Clovis' Tristan Gilliland.
"It was tough to see him lose by one, but we were pleased with the way he wrestled," Foothill coach Brad Hull said. "His preparation this week was great, and this gives us something to build on for next year."
Josh Bailey of Frontier also fell one match short of a medal, losing to Carmichael-Jesuit's Erik Medina. After winning his first two matches, the 195-pound senior lost a heartbreaking 3-2 match against Elk Grove-Franklin's Joey Banks in the quarterfinals to put him in the consolation bracket. Bailey fell behind 5-1 against Medina and nearly came back, but Medina held on for a 7-6 win.
-- NATHAN SANCHEZ
A state meet first
Saturday's night heavyweight final was groundbreaking.
Stephanie Cataline became the first woman to ever coach a wrestler in the state finals, when Nour Abdullatif of Eastvale-Roosevelt took the mat against Clovis' Nick Nevills.
"I'm just excited to be here period," Cataline said. "We've been here for the last seven years in a row. I'm excited to have a young man that I've taken as an eighth grader when his brother was wrestling for me, and nurture him and bring him to this level."
Cataline, who is the co-coach of Roosevelt with her husband Mike, is the mother of eight adult children, including a daughter, Jackie Cataline, that is a six-time national champion and is member of the U.S. national team.
The two began coaching together in 1996 at Long Beach-Millikan. They've coached at Roosevelt since its inception eight years ago.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to coach at the state championships just as a coach, period," Stephanie Cataline said. "But as female, it makes it a little bit sweeter."
-- STEPHEN LYNCH
Team USA in Rabobank
Wrestling royalty was in attendance for the state finals Saturday night: The U.S. Wrestling team, set to compete next weekend at Wrestling's World Cup in Los Angeles.
Bakersfield graduate and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner is not competing with the team, but national team coach Zeke Jones was there, along with another 2012 gold medalist, Jordan Burroughs, plus several native Californians. Among them were Las Lomas graduate Jason Welch and St. John Bosco's Aaron Pico, who won a state title as a freshman last year but left his high school team to train with the U.S. team with an eye at turning professional.
The team was recognized during the parade of state medalists before the state finals. Burroughs received the loudest cheer from the crowd.
The Mongolian national team, coached by former California state champion Steve Barrett, was also in attendance.
Clovis gets it 4th straight
Bookended by a freshman lightweight and a senior heavyweight, Clovis won its fourth straight state team championship and 12th overall. Both are records.
Justin Mejia beat Corona-Santiago's Chris Lacayo 5-3 in the 106-pound championship, and heavyweight Nick Nevills ended the evening with a second-period pin of Abdullatif.
Nevills and Gilroy's Niko Villarreal, the 145-pound champion, each won their third state titles. They become the 18th and 19th wrestlers to do so.
The Cougars totaled 197.5 team points, far out-pacing second-place Clovis West, which scored 118.5. Poway (110) was third, followed by Gilroy (107), Vacaville (90) and Bellflower-St. John Bosco (88). Bakersfield finished 10th with 75 points.
-- ZACH EWING Milestone for unique trophy
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Dave Schultz Champion of Champions Memorial Trophy, handed out to the state tournament's most outstanding wrestler.
Former Cal State Bakersfield wrestler and accomplished artist Joey Krebs designed the trophy, an 18-inch plate with two images of the late Schultz, a former freestyle Olympic and world champion, etched into it.
"Most trophies are done as a star, an eagle, a bear," Krebs said. "But this is a very modern trophy. It's gold-plated and it's done through a photo-resist process, which is etching."
The first recipient of the award was former Bakersfield High wrestler Jake Varner, a two-time state champion and a 2012 Olympic gold medalist.
The winner of trophy is decided by a vote of that year's state champions.
Tournament director Alan Paradise commissioned Krebs, his former CSUB wrestling teammate, to create the trophy. Krebs' inspiration for the project was Paradise's artist grandfather.
"Wrestling has meant the world to me," Krebs said. "It's community, it's people, it's friendships. And so I only want to give my very best to a community that has afforded me an incredible sense of development and sense of purpose and destiny. And that's what I like to share with the community."
Niko Villareal of Gilroy High was the winner of this year's award.
-- STEPHEN LYNCH