The road map to the medal stand was laid out Sunday for 28 local qualifiers for the CIF State Wrestling Championships, which are Friday and Saturday at Rabobank Arena.
The path at state always has obstacles, but this year it might seem particularly treacherous: Eight locals face another section's champion in their first match, and eight -- not all the same wrestlers -- face an opponent The California Wrestler ranks in the state's top 10 for his weight class.
That includes several marquee matchups: Foothill 113-pounder Nick Marquez, ranked No. 13, will square off with No. 7 Kasey Klaus of Vacaville on Friday morning in his first match; No. 18 Joshua Hokit of Wasco will wrestle No. 12 Cameron Bailey of Vacaville in the first round at 126; and No. 12 Kyle Shepherd of Frontier gets No. 2 Nicholas Fiegener of Folsom at 160.
Even those who reached the Central Section finals Saturday in Visalia weren't exempt from tough matchups: 170-pound section champion Bryce Martin of Bakersfield, ranked No. 8 in the state, will have to work early against No. 18 Ezra Morgan of Napa; and 182-pound finalist Kyle Pope, another Driller who reached the state finals last year and is ranked No. 4 this season, gets No. 13 Zachary Claiborne of El Dorado Hills-Oak Ridge first.
The top-ranked locals were protected, at least as much as one can be at state: Wasco senior Sean Medley, ranked first in the state and No. 12 nationally at 220 pounds, has unranked Dominic Freesha of Escalon first, though he would have No. 7 Evan Dahlquist of Palo Cedro-Foothill in the next round. He is on the opposite side of the bracket from both No. 2 Derrick Jones of Bloomington and No. 3 Jordan Sepeda of Sacramento-Natomas.
State No. 2 Vincent Gomez of Frontier, who took down No. 1 Michael Knoblauch of Clovis West in the section final at 126, wrestles No. 24 Joshy Cortez of Temecula Valley first.
Bakersfield's Coleman Hammond, ranked No. 2 (though he has lost in back-to-back weeks to No. 4 Kyle Perreault of Clovis East) drew No. 24 Amir Hassan of Westlake. He is on the opposite half of the bracket from both Perreault and No. 1 Shayne Tucker of Fair Oaks-Bella Vista.
Other early matchups of note: Stockdale senior Ryan Holmes, ranked No. 36, faces No. 3 Keaton Subjeck of Oak Ridge first at 170. Kennedy's Adrian Hernandez has it even tougher at 170, drawing No. 2 Peter Santos of Roseville-Oakmont.