The reaction was worthy of a few chills, some tears, and a lot of cheers.
Bakersfield High senior Izzak Olejnik stared at the clock as it ticked down to zero, then clenched his fists and let out a primal scream, pointing to his large contingent of friends and family in the stands.
Olejnik, the No. 6 seed coming into the first day of the CIF State Boys Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena on Friday, had just beat No. 3 Jake Ryan of Oakdale.
It’s the first semifinals appearance for the senior and he is sharing the fun with a lot of people in his life.
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But one person was missing. Izzak's dad, Matt, has been in the hospital and is not well enough to attend the tournament.
“He is a big family guy,” Bakersfield coach Frank Lomas said. “His family raised a really good kid. His whole family is here. His aunts and uncles, they run the tournament. His dad has been sick and is in the hospital, but he couldn’t be happier for his son. I know that.”
Olejnik injured his wrist back in early December at the Rumble for the Rig tournament and missed out on some marquee invitationals while recovering.
Not having quality matches in the middle of the season may have affected his seed in the state tournament, one that he knows isn’t indicative of how he's currently wrestling.
“I’m not a six seed,” Olejnik said. “I proved it out there. I feel like I have proven it all year long.”
But Olejnik is a seasoned wrestler and knows that once you get into a match like the quarterfinals — where a win guarantees a medal and a loss is one step from the end of a high school career — a wrestler's ranking doesn’t matter.
“Seedings don’t matter now,” Olejnik said. “It would be nice to be the No. 1 seed or the No. 2 seed. But at this point in the tournament, I just go out there clawing and fighting and getting whatever points I can get.”
Olejnik opened up the day with a fury, pinning his first three opponents before riding out Ryan to advance to the semifinals, where he will see No. 2 Tony Mendoza of Selma. Olejnik lost to Mendoza in the quarterfinals of the Central Section Masters Championships, 2-1 in overtime, last weekend at North High.
“I am just going to stay calm and collected and enjoy it with my team right now,” Olejnik said. “The main focus is getting to that top of the podium Saturday night. I will do whatever I have to, to get there. It’s going to happen.”
Martin falls in quarterfinals
Garces senior Isaiah Martin was seeded No. 16 at 220 pounds, but knew he was better than that placement.
Martin proved it when he turned a 9-1 deficit against top-seeded Victor Jaquez of San Jose-Bellarmine Prep into a second-period pin. It was one of the more exciting matches of the opening day and was tied for the biggest upset.
But 90 minutes later, Martin couldn’t keep the good run going, losing by major decision to No. 9 Dane Martinez of Brawley.
Despite the loss, Martin was quick to point out to Garces coach Robert Fowler that he was already thinking about getting back on the mat in the consolation bracket Saturday morning.
“It was one of those things, it’s wrestling,” Martin said. “(Martinez) went out there and he had a decent game plan. I can’t complain or cry. I just have to suck my wounds up and get ready for (Saturday).”