SHAFTER -- Isaiah Hokit's state wrestling ranking has slipped a bit in the past two months, but this is no sophomore slump; the Wasco 10th-grader is just getting warmed up.
Hokit's second-period pin of Shafter's Israel Valdez at 113 pounds was one of nine Wasco individual titles at the South Sequoia League Championships on Friday at Shafter, and it was one of the loudest messages.
Hokit took fourth at the CIF State Championships as a 106-pound freshman last year and came into this season ranked No. 2 at 113. But three tight losses at the Doc Buchanan Invitational and the Five Counties Invitational in Fountain Valley dropped him to No. 6 as the wrestling postseason begins.
But Hokit said he isn't concerned and feels ready to challenge for a top spot.
"This is kind of how my season went last year, too," he said. "I was just able to peak at the right time. I'm close (this season), but not close enough yet. I could do much better."
Hokit's most highly regarded teammate, Sean Medley, is ranked No. 1 in the state at 220 pounds, and Medley looked the part, pinning Chavez's Raul Rosiquez after taking him down seven times in the first three minutes.
Other highly rated Tigers, such as Joshua Hokit (126), Jose Robledo (182) and Garret Johnson (heavyweight), also won easily, and Wasco added championships from Juan Gutierrez (106), Michael Macias (120), Jacob Diaz (132) and Casper Lopez (152). The closest finals match among them was a 10-3 decision.
“I liked the way a lot of these guys looked,” Wasco coach Juan Gallardo said. “I liked how Isaiah looked and how Garret looked. Casper Lopez wrestled like a man.
“These kids are a special group, and you saw it tonight.”
Up next are the Sierra/Sequoia Divisionals right back at Shafter, where the small-school section title will be handed out along with four trips to the Central Section Masters in each weight class.
Wrestlers like Hokit, Medley and Johnson have individual goals to accomplish, but next week will mostly be about the Tigers’ elusive team goal: Beating out the likes of Selma and Fresno-Washington Union for a small-school title that has barely eluded Wasco each of the past two seasons.
“We have a legitimate shot if we wrestle well,” said Gallardo, who coached six years at Shafter before leaving for the Generals’ rivals to the north. “We’ve been close, and that is the main goal now. The good thing is, we’re familiar with this gym, and the kids get to sleep in their own beds. This feels like home."
In all, Wasco tallied 252.5 team points to second-place Shafter's 191. Kennedy was third with 112 and McFarland (99) fourth.
Shafter had three individual champions: Trinidad Reyes (145), Ben Coyle (160) and Erik Torres (195), who is ranked ninth in the section at 220 but dropped a weight class for the postseason. He dominated Wasco’s Jason Dibble in the championship.
The other individual champions were McFarland’s D.J. Lopez (138) and Kennedy’s Adrian Hernandez (170).
Now the focus shifts to the section tournament. Not long after that is the state meet at Rabobank Arena, where the top wrestlers have kept one eye for the whole season.
That includes Hokit, who would like to measure himself against Bellflower-St. John Bosco’s Zahid Valencia, who won state at 106 last year and is ranked No. 1 nationally at 113.
“My goal is to be a state finalist,” Hokit said. “Then I can put myself in position to try to win it.”