MADERA -- Now that he's an upperweight, Bakersfield High junior Bryce Martin is discovering that momentum can carry you a little further.
This time, it carried him all the way to a Central Section Yosemite Divisional wrestling championship at 170 pounds on Saturday night at Madera South High. Martin pinned the top seed, Austin Flores of Clovis North, 51 seconds into the second period.
"I'm pretty confident right now," Martin said. "I feel like I can hang with anybody."
Martin was the only champion among seven locals who wrestled in the finals. The most notable defeat came at 126 pounds, where Frontier senior Vincent Gomez, ranked No. 1 in the state, lost a wild 8-7 decision to Clovis West's Michael Knoblauch, who came in at No. 2.
"That was the craziest match of the year, maybe of my whole high school career," Gomez said. "Me and him know each other so well that I didn't want to kill him like I do the rest of the guys I wrestle."
Gomez led 6-4 when he gave up a reversal in the final seconds of the second period to tie the match. Knoblauch chose neutral position in the third period and took Gomez down after a wild scramble.
Gomez got a point with an escape but another scramble resulted in no points as the clock expired, and Knoblauch held on. In the wrestlers’ first meeting this season, Gomez won 9-7.
“We’ve just got to win the last match,” Frontier coach Kirk Moore said. “That’s the only one that matters. It was an entertaining match, fun to see. We just made a few little mistakes.”
Gomez said he’s ready for a rematch.
“It was kind of a coin toss when it shouldn’t have been,” he said. “I did a few things wrong, and next time I’ll be better.”
Next time comes Saturday at the Central Section Masters in Visalia, to which the top eight in each weight class from this tournament qualify.
Martin, who came in ranked No. 11 in the state in his weight but will move up after the pin of No. 9 Flores, will be there along with nine other Drillers.
“It’s just another step closer,” Martin said. “I can’t be satisfied with this win, but it does feel pretty good.”
Bakersfield High finished third in the team standings with 215 points. Two-time defending state champion Clovis won the tournament with 297, and Clovis-Buchanan finished with 269.
Next week, wrestlers must finish in the top nine of 12-man brackets to earn a berth at the CIF State Championships on March 1-2 in Rabobank Arena.
“We have 10 that survived and gave themselves another chance,” BHS coach Andy Varner said. “The bottom line is, we’ve got to go into next week and battle and take care of business.”
A couple of Drillers will be itching for that chance, starting with 152-pounder Coleman Hammond. The senior Cal State Bakersfield signee came in ranked No. 2 in the state, but made an early mistake in his championship match against No. 4 Kyle Perreault of Clovis East. Perreault caught Hammond in a cradle early, threw him to the mat and pinned him in 39 seconds.
“He came out really aggressive and got good position,” Varner said. “Coleman’s going to be real hungry the next two weeks.”
Bakersfield also had 160-pounder Hunter Hodges and 182-pounder Kyle Pope reach the championship, but Hodges was defeated 22-7 by national No. 2 Isaiah Martinez of Lemoore, and Pope defaulted to state No. 1 Adrian Salas of Clovis because he was ill.
Still, Varner said he was mostly pleased with the weekend elsewhere. One of the Drillers’ highlights was a third-place finish at 195 from No. 6 seed Nick Kidd.
“Nick Kidd did a great job,” Varner said. “That’s a guy who only has a season and a half under his belt, and to get third in the Yosemite Valley is tremendous.”
Frontier’s Josh Bailey (195) and Auggie Alcantar (220) also reached the final but lost to top seeds, Bailey by an 8-4 decision to Clovis’ Matt Weiss, and Alcantar by pin to Clovis West's Cortes Morales.
“They both had a good look at it,” Moore said. “Auggie made one mistake, but that guy’s top eight in the state and we were right there. Josh just made two little mistakes. Now we’ve just got to go do it again.”
In all, 29 Kern County wrestlers survived and advanced to Masters, including seven Frontier wrestlers and two each from Foothill, Centennial, East and Ridgeview. Four of those, including both of the Wolf Pack’s qualifiers — Jaccob Lopez (fourth place at 195) or Gabriel Rosas (fifth at heavyweight) — came into the tournament seeded.
Moore said to expect more of the unexpected next week.
“Everything changes again next week,” he said. “Anything can happen. We’ve seen top seeds lose and get knocked out, we’ve seen No. 8 seeds get to the final, we’ve seen it all. Nothing is guaranteed.”