The first time Nick Maiden and Isaiah Martin wrestled, the force Maiden put on Martin caused him to lose his lunch.
Or breakfast, if you will, because Martin is a cereal fanatic.
That was 10 years ago when the two were 7 years old.
Maiden and Martin have grown up down the street from each other, are first cousins, share football and wrestling as primary passions, and are both ranked in their respective weight classes heading into this weekend's CIF State Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena.
Maiden said he began wrestling when he was 4. It took some time to get his cousin on the mat.
“We got him into it when he was about 7,” Maiden said. “When we first started wrestling each other, it was in my dad’s garage back in 2007, 2008.”
Martin remembers it well.
“We were slamming each other, on like the first day,” Martin said. “(Maiden’s dad) said, ‘Put your legs in, put your legs in.’ And I just threw up all of my cereal. All on the mat.”
As family rivalries go, Maiden wouldn’t take responsibility for that.
“Ah, that wasn’t my fault,” Maiden said, jokingly.
“Then my uncle said, ‘I bet you won’t eat cereal no more,’” Martin said. “So from then on, I have never ate cereal before practice.”
That ritual is now done the night before a big match, when Martin says he takes in two bowls of corn flakes. He hopes to continue that tradition Friday night, as both seniors have aspirations of the state podium stand this weekend.
Both finished third at the Central Section Masters Championships at North High last weekend.
Maiden lost to defending 182-pound state champion Anthony Montalvo of Clovis-Buchanan in the semifinals and eventually beat Ridgeview’s John Bordon.
Martin, who moved up two weight classes this season to 220, fell to this weekend’s No. 2 seed (Buchanan’s Trevor Ervin) before beating Lemoore’s Jacob Gonsalves in the third place match.
Martin received the 16-seed in the state tournament and is in the same quarterfinals side of the bracket as No. 1 Victor Jaquez of San Jose-Bellarmine Prep.
Maiden is a four-time state qualifier and finished in the top-12 last season. This time around, Maiden is the 12 seed at 182.
The two are as close as cousins can be.
Martin says he’s the stronger one now and could beat his cousin on the mat if he gets to him early in the match.
“Because he’s bigger,” Maiden concurred. “That’s it. But I think I can still take him all three periods.”
Martin was quick to agree, saying, “Yeah. He can.”
Both are also standout football players.
Martin was the starting running back at Garces all four years and is the program’s all-time leading rusher with 4,384 yards. Maiden was Stockdale’s leading tackler this season and spent a good amount of time at running back as well.
That argument on who is better is even more heated.
“It goes back and forth,” Maiden said. “We don’t really go for competition because it is family. We keep it friendly. But sometimes we do try for bragging rights to see who can get the biggest hit on each other.”
Martin agreed on that point.
“We have to have something to talk about on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Martin said.
Both want to be able to stand on the medal podium Saturday night. They will be cheering for the other, and are hoping to add another conversation during their holiday meals.
“It’s our last time out there. It’s our last chance,” Maiden said. “There are only two more days of wrestling for us. We are just going to go out there and leave everything out on the line and go out with a bang.”
Added Maiden: “With all of our family supporting us through everything. I am just hoping we place. If we do, we are all going to get a pretty nice meal at the end just to celebrate. It’s been a long time since we all got together to eat.”
Nevills seeks fourth title
Going into last season’s state championship, Bakerfield High’s Darrell Vasquez still stood as the lone four-time state champion.
This weekend, Clovis High senior Seth Nevills goes in seeking to be No. 3 after his former teammate, Justin Mejia, completed the feat last March.
“It was a relief,” Clovis High coach Adam Tirapelle said. “For Justin, it was such a relief because of the pressure.”
This time around, the feeling is more of anticipation for Nevills, who is 161-1 in his career and undefeated against California competition. He seeks his third heavyweight title after winning state at 220 as a freshman in 2015.
“We will be happy for him and hopefully it goes that way,” Tirapelle said. “I am sure he will get tested this weekend. I know he is humble about it. But he’s a competitor and wants to be challenged. Anything can happen.”
Nevills hasn’t been challenged much this season. Other than his lone loss to No. 2 nationally-ranked Cohlton Schultz of Ponderosa (Colo.), Nevills, who is 34-1 this season, has won by first-period fall 24 times.
“Looking at him, he is incredible physically,” Tirapelle said. “He’s the biggest of his family and wrestles at a really high level. He’s as consistent as they come. I know what it’s like to wrestle at a high level. But he never complains. He’s way ahead of his competition and it can’t be fun for him. But he’s a true sportsman and is always there for his team. But that’s the biggest thing with Seth.”