Winter is here.
Last week saw temperatures move from the mid-70s into the 50s with a good amount of rain. The leaves have changed colors around Kern County.
And with fall high school sports winding down locally, it’s time for winter sports to kick in for the next three months.
There are plenty of storylines to get into. Here's a few that have caught my attention right off the bat:
Wrestling, wrestling, more wrestling
it all starts with Trent Tracy.
The Frontier senior won the CIF State 170-pound championship in March at Rabobank Arena and, with added bulk to his frame, will go at it this year at 182 pounds.
Add in teammates Cole Reyes and Max Aguirre — those two, along with Tracy, have signed to wrestle collegiately at Cal Poly — and the Titans have high hopes this season.
Preseason rankings from The California Wrestler have Frontier No. 8 in the state and third in the section. The Titans are behind No. 1 Clovis-Buchanan and No. 7 Clovis North. Bakersfield High is ranked No. 10.
Tracy is ranked No. 1 in the state preseason poll at 182, while Reyes is ranked No. 4 at 126 as is Aguirre at 160.
BHS is led by sophomore Justin Darter, ranked No. 3 at 220. Junior Josiah Hill is ranked No. 6 at 285, Adrian Gonzalez is No. 6 at 145, and Jared Priest is No. 7 at 170.
Some scheduling changes haven taken place for the postseason: The wrestling state championships have been moved up a week, now slated for the last weekend of February at Rabobank Arena. It will also be a three-day event this year, and the girls state championships will be held at the same location as well. In the past, the girls state championships have been at the Visalia Convention Center a week prior, but the change puts the girls state tournament on the same center stage as the boys.
On the girls wrestling mat, there will likely be a powershift in the county.
Frontier sophomore Alyssa Valdivia, the 2017-18 BVarsity Girls Wrestler of the Year after placing third at state last season at 116 pounds, is not competing because of academics, according to head coach Brett Clark.
There are four other county girls wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the section — Ridgeview junior Genesis Quirarte (101 pounds), East sophomore Kristen Banalas (121), South junior Shareni Donis (143) and Golden Valley senior Kayvett Osorio (189) — that figure to make an impact in 2018.
Hill leads the way
Liberty basketball senior Isaiah Hill is proving to be one of the best guards in California.
The University of Tulsa-bound senior has already put up two 30-plus point performances against Clovis East and Clovis-Buchanan in the first two games of the season.
Hill moves around the court with such grace and agility that one can forget just how much of a fierce competitor he is when driving to the basket.
Fans can get an up-close look at Hill and many of the city's top teams and players this week at the 62nd annual Lloyd Williams Kern Schools Federal Credit Union Shootout at North High School.
Hill and the Patriots begin play against Foothill on Wednesday at 5 p.m. And while Liberty is a team to watch in 2018, the Trojans are an interesting squad this season as well.
Senior Edward Turner and sophomore Jaden Phillips are both next-level talents on the court. There were also three transfers into the program that have yet to be cleared — guard Gabriel Bossi, and forwards Elijah Seals and Warren Stingley, all of which came to the program as out-of-town transfers before the season.
If any of those three take the court, then the Trojans go from a really good team to maybe a state-championship caliber team in Division IV this season.
With that said, Foothill will likely have to contend with Bakersfield Christian in the playoffs.
The Eagles return a ton of talent from a team that lost in the section championship last year — Ben Yurosek, Lendl Henderson, Seth Marantos and Noah Taylor are all back at BCHS. Then, add in senior guard Kadar Waller (a transfer from Liberty), and the Eagles become one of the top teams in the section regardless of division.
Factor in always-tough Bakersfield High — despite the loss of R.J. Banks, who transferred to Los Angeles-Cathedral — an upstart North team with Shannon Ferguson leading the way, and Independence with Elijah Carter, and there is a plenty of intrigue on the boys basketball court this year.
In girls hoops, Garces got a big boost with the addition of Aliyah Johnson who transferred in from from North. Johnson figures to be a key contributor, and form a nice one-two punch with Lexus Green.
That will be necessary in order to match up with defending D-II section champion BHS.
The Drillers graduated Taylor Caldwell — now starting at Grand Canyon University — but return McKenna Hsiung, Kiara Frink and Taylor Linzie.
Other top returners in the county this season include Hannah Hurley (Kern Valley), Monica Burrieta (Shafter) and Lanie Jackson (BCHS).
Soccer talent abound
The Southwest Yosemite League will be tough in girls soccer.
Liberty already secured a big non-league win with a 1-0 victory over Clovis-Buchanan on Cynthia Flores’ goal. Buchanan beat Liberty on penalty kicks in the D-I championships last season.
Frontier, with four seniors set to sign with Division I college programs — including Chloe Sizemore at Cal State Bakersfield — will be in the battle for league supremacy.
And don't overlook Centennial and Stockdale, two teams taking the field under new head coaches.
While the SWYL is the premier league in girls soccer, the top teams on the boys side of things are all over the place.
Mira Monte won the D-IV section title last season and returns junior Jonathan Alvarenga, the 2017-18 BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year.
Seems like as long as there is a Rivas brother at South, the Rebels will always be in the mix. Alexis Rivas is now in his senior year at South after scoring 23 goals and adding 17 assists last season. He helped lead the Rebels to a big 5-0 win over Golden Valley on Tuesday.