VISALIA -- Revenge is a dish best served at the end of the season, so everyone -- winner or loser -- was speaking softly following the Central Section Masters Championships on Saturday at Mount Whitney High.
Frontier's Vincent Gomez avenged an 8-7 loss last week to Clovis West's Michael Knoblauch with a 4-3 victory in the 126-pound section final. Gomez likely will take back his state No. 1 ranking headed into the CIF State Championships, which are Friday and Saturday at Rabobank Arena.
"Last week, I didn't take him seriously," Gomez said. "I was too calm; I took him lightly. This week, I knew what needed to be done. I did it for me, I did it for coach (Kirk) Moore and coach (Daniel) Chapman."
Three Kern County wrestlers won section titles -- Gomez, Bakersfield's Bryce Martin at 170 pounds and state No. 1 Sean Medley of Wasco at 220. The top nine in each weight class, and the top 10 in a few classes, qualified for state. Kern County will send 28 qualifiers, including nine from Bakersfield High, which finished third as a team.
Gomez has defeated Knoblauch in two of three meetings this season, and all three have been decided in the final seconds. This time, Gomez took a 3-2 lead with a second-period reversal. He then kept Knoblauch from from getting an escape for the remaining 1:30 of that period and for nearly the entire third period.
Finally, with four seconds left in the match, Knoblauch grabbed the edge of the mat for leverage — a technical violation that gave Gomez a point. With a 4-2 lead, Gomez let Knoblauch go and killed the clock to win by a point.
It’d be no surprise if the duo met again on the raised mat for the state championship next weekend.
“There’s gonna be a lot of tough guys, and weird stuff happens at state,” Gomez said. “But I don’t see anybody beating him, and I don’t see anybody beating me, so I think we’ll see each other again. And I’m so excited for that.”
Toeing the other side of the revenge coin was Bakersfield junior Martin, who won the 170-pound championship against Clovis North’s Austin Flores. That was a repeat from last week’s Yosemite Divisional at Madera South — but that one was a lopsided match that ended in a second-period pin. This week’s version went to double overtime, with Martin hanging on by a point as Flores tried to take him down near the edge of the mat.
“That was a really good shot; I didn’t see it coming,” Martin said. “I was looking for a tie-up, and all of a sudden he was on my legs.
“I expected it to be tougher. When you lose to a guy, you think about it all week.”
A victory is a victory, but Martin, ranked No. 8 in the state, understands too that next week is all that counts.
“All the hard work is done now,” Martin said. “Now we just need to go show how hard we worked.”
Another Driller, Coleman Hammond, is still seeking revenge against Clovis East’s Kyle Perreault, who beat him 3-2 in a tight match after pinning him in 39 seconds last week. Hammond came in still ranked ahead of Perreault, at No. 2 in the state to Perreault’s No. 4, but now the state draw will reflect a wide-open weight class.
“Coleman is wrestling pretty well,” Bakersfield coach Andy Varner said. “He can wrestle better, obviously, and I think we’ll see that next week. It’s hard to be one of the favorites sometimes.”
The Drillers brought 10 wrestlers to Masters, and nine of them finished in the top nine — all but heavyweight Shaq Garret, who lost an overtime match for ninth-place to Ridgeview’s Gabriel Rosas. The other qualifiers include Hunter Hodges (second at 160), Kyle Pope (second at 182), A.J. Fierro (third at 145), Nick Kidd (fourth at 195), Carlos Herrera (sixth at 106), Antonio Gutierrez (seventh at 132) and Arik Onsurez (eighth at 120).
“We’re pleased for those nine,”
Varner said. “I feel bad for Shaq, especially because he was so close, but those nine accomplished what they came to accomplish.”
Frontier, which placed seventh as a team, has six qualifiers: Gomez, Josh Bailey (third at 195), Izaiah Ozuna (fourth at 132), Augie Alcantar (fifth at 220), Kyle Shepherd (seventh at 160) and Carlos Montejo (eighth at 182).
Wasco, which finished eighth as a team, qualified all five it brought to Masters: Medley, Isaiah Hokit (second at 113), Josh Hokit (fourth at 126), Jose Robledo (fourth at 182) and Garret Johnson (sixth at heavyweight).
Other Kern County state qualifiers: Foothill’s Marco Velasquez (sixth at 113) and Nick Marquez (seventh at 120); Ridgeview’s Rosas (ninth at heavyweight) and Jaccob Lopez (fifth at 195); Tehachapi’s Dillon Harroun (fifth at 182); Kennedy’s Adrian Hernandez (sixth at 170); Stockdale’s Ryan Holmes (eighth at 170); and East’s Adam Bracamonte, who finished 10th at 126 and was given the Oakland Section’s spot because that section champion hadn’t placed at another varsity tournament this season.
Next week, they’ll meet in Rabobank Arena. And next week will be the final word.
“That's what we keep reminding them,” Varner said. “One thing that will take the sting of these matches away is what happens Friday and Saturday in the Rabobank Arena.