Local wrestlers will be looking to take their intensity to another level this weekend when teams officially open the postseason with the Central Section Divisional championships at a variety of locations.
The two-day tournament opens Friday, with five boys divisional champions and two girls area winners crowned for each weight class on Saturday night.
Two of the area’s top teams, Bakersfield High and Frontier, will travel to Lemoore along with Foothill for the Division 1 tournament. The top 10 finishers in each of 14 weight classes will advance to next week’s Masters championships.
“We’re excited to get started with the postseason,” BHS coach Andy Varner said. “We’re healthier than we’ve been in the last couple of weeks which is good, and I know the kids are looking forward to battling. It’s gonna be a dogfight this week because our division is probably one of the hardest divisions in the state as a qualifier. But I think they are up for the challenge. Quite a few of them have been through the process so they know what to expect. I think if we can get through it, we’re going to get stronger and stronger every week leading up to the state.”
The Drillers and Titans enter the competition ranked 6th and 7th, respectively in the Central Section, with a combined 20 wrestlers ranked in the top 10.
“We have all 14 guys healthy and ready to compete,” Frontier coach Carlo Franciotti said. “We’re excited. The nice thing about the end of the season is it all builds up to this. You train all season so hopefully you’re not the same person you were back in December, or even January, you’ve evolved a little bit. Past results aren’t an indicator of future success, but we hope that our preparation leads to even better results.”
North High, which won the Division 4 title last year, has moved up a level and will host the D-3 tournament, with the top seven qualifying positions in each weight class on the line.
The Stars will be joined by seven other local teams in competing in D-3: South, Independence, Ridgeview, Centennial, Wasco, Chavez and Shafter.
“We’re really excited for this weekend,” Stars coach Brady Garner said. “I think we have a good chance. We’re one of the top teams that has a good chance of winning it. So it would be really nice to win one in our home gym, and to get that good momentum heading into the rest of the postseason.”
In girls action, all the local wrestlers will be competing for the Southeast Area title at Tulare-Mission Oak High. The top eight finishers in each weight class will advance to next week's two-day Masters tournament at East High.
"After looking at rankings and seedings and who's in the tournament, I feel pretty confident in our team," said Golden Valley coach Juan Gamino, of the Bulldogs, who won the Area and Masters titles last season. "We should have a really good showing and we hope to qualify quite a few girls to the Masters."
Golden Valley is expected to receive a big challenge from Foothill and South Yosemite League rival Ridgeview.
"There's going to be a lot of good rematches in our section," Gamino said. "It will interesting to see who comes out and can go the farthest."