This time, Navonte Demison knew exactly what to do.
So when the Bakersfield High senior had won his second straight state wrestling title Saturday, Demison started doing what a hometown champion does: He gave out hugs.
There was one for each of his coaches in the corner, Frank Lomas and Andy Varner. There was a brief one for his opponent, Jack Ramalia of Granite Bay, and then there was a tour through the BHS cheering section in the Rabobank Arena stands to find the most important hugs of all: Mom, Sister and Brothers.
“It’s amazing,” said Demison, who won his 145-pound finals match 5-2. “I just have to thank my sister, my brothers, my coaching staff. I knew whatever happened this weekend, I’d be happy with what I had done, but to perform in front of my family and friends, it’s just incredible.”
So dominant was Demison’s senior season that his finals match was easily his closest of the season — and it wasn’t that close. Demison led 3-2 early in the third period when he notched a takedown that gave him some breathing room.
“I looked over at my coaches with about a minute left, and they were so freakin excited, they could hardly sit down,” Demison said. “That’s one of those moments I live for.”
The other local finalist, Frontier’s Elijah Ozuna, lost 3-0 to Lemoore’s Gary Joint in the 132-pound championship, but for the first time in more than 15 years, a local team finished ahead of Bakersfield High in the team standings.
Clovis-Buchanan won its second straight team title with 213.5 team points. Frontier finished sixth with 85; BHS was 10th with 79.
But on an individual level, the tournament was once again about the kid who grew up in east Bakersfield, came to BHS as a pipsqueak who barely weighed 100 pounds and then turned into a strongman that none in the state could top.
Demison repeated his state title even though he played football for the first time in three years, winning a Central Section title as the Drillers’ starting cornerback, and didn’t start wrestling season until much later than usual, in early January.
“Whatever he says he wants to do, I’d bet on it,” Lomas said. “He told us he wanted to play football, and we were like, ‘Yeah, OK, yeah, right.’ And then he said he’s going to wrestle, too?”
Demison used the Doc Buchanan Invitational, one of the nation’s most prestigious tournaments, as a tune-up to get in shape — and he won it. He gave up a takedown in the first round of the Doc B and then didn’t give up another throughout a 35-0 season.
“What an amazing career,” Varner said. “To win Valley in football of his senior year, then Valley and state in wrestling. He’s pretty elite.”
Varner said he thinks that in the near 20 years he’s been coaching the Drillers, Demison, who will wrestle for Arizona State, is only the fourth four-time state medalist, joining four-time state champion Darrell Vasquez, Nathan Morgan and Jake Varner.
“As far as athleticism and ability, he’s right at the top with any of them,” Andy Varner said. “He has amazing hips and explosive abilities.”
He showed them early in the finals match, when it appeared Ramalia was in on a shot and had a takedown “dead to rights,” as Lomas put it. But instead, Demison flipped Ramalia with his hips alone and nearly placed the Granite Bay wrestler on his back, ending up with his own takedown.
Demison pinned Dinuba’s Jacob Wright in last year’s 138-pound state final, but there would be no rematch: Ramalia beat Wright in Saturday morning’s semifinals.
But neither had a chance against the hometown kid with some more hardware in “DADDY DEMS” fanny pack that he wears to every match.
“When he gets under those lights, he thrives,” Varner said. “He’s one of the greats at BHS.”