By Kevin Askeland
The Clovis Cougars didn’t have a state champion, but that wasn’t enough to keep them from winning a state record eighth team title Saturday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
Thanks to a strong performance in the medal rounds, the Cougars racked up 118.5 points heading into the finals where 130-pounder Steve Weimer had a chance to add to that total. Only Central Catholic, with three finalists, had a legitimate chance to catch the Cougars, but the Raiders would need some spectacular performances in order to wrest the title from Clovis.
While Weimer was unable to claim the 130-pound title, it didn’t matter in the team race as the Raiders were able to gain only one individual champion. As a result, Gilroy, with two champions, passed the Raiders to finish second with 113 points. Central Catholic finished third with 109 points while Poway was fourth with 106.
Clovis won the tournament in the consolation bracket where six wrestlers medaled, giving the Cougars a tournament-best seven placewinners. Three other teams, Central Catholic, Poway and Lemoore, were all second with four placewinners.
As a result, the team championship was not the focus of the championship round. Instead, the story centered on the possibility of crowning two 3-time champions in Jason Welch of Las Lomas and Louis Bland of Central Catholic.
Welch did not disappoint in the 160-pound finals. Through the first nine championship final matches, 18 wrestlers combined for a total of 13 takedowns. In his match against Central Catholic’s Steven Vasquez, Welch had seven takedowns of his own in racking up an 18-8 win.
Welch became the 13th three-time champion in state history and just the fifth to reach the finals four times. Welch finished second as a freshman, but won titles at 152 and 160 pounds the past two seasons.
Bland joined Welch in that exclusive group just a few minutes later. Controlling Bullard’s Phil Brandt near the end of the first round, Bland threw his opponent to the mat and pinned him with 13 seconds left in the period. Bland’s pin was the only one in regulation during the finals and was the quickest match of the night.
Bland also became a three-time champion, winning as a freshman at 152 pounds and as a sophomore at 171 pounds. He finished second last year at 171 pounds.
Welch and Bland also became four-time medalists, a distinction also held by Gilroy’s Hunter Collins, who won his first state title at 171 pounds.
Collins went into overtime against Temecula Valley’s Jake Meredith, but got a takedown and pin in the extra period for his first state title. Collins finished eighth as a freshman, second as a sophomore and third last year.
Three wrestlers won their second straight state title. Gilberto Camacho of Washington Union outlasted Clovis West’s Zach Zimmer, 5-4, to win his second straight 103-pound championship. Meanwhile Vista’s Anthony Meza, a champion at 145 pounds last year, defeated Clovis West sophomore James Cook for the 152-pound crown by a score of 3-2.
Rudi Burtschi of Oakdale won his second straight crown at 215 pounds with an 8-6 win over Coalinga’s Josh Boger. Burtschi also placed sixth as a sophomore.
Vlad Dombroski of Natomas proved to be the surprise of the tournament. Unranked at the start of the tournament, the 140-pounder, who is originally from the Ukraine, topped El Diamante’s David Watts 6-3 for the crown. Dombroski is in his first year of folkstyle wrestling after competing in freestyle in his home country.
Many of the matches looked remarkably similar. Seven matches were scoreless after the first period and three matches had identical 3-1 scores. Martin Gonzalez of Gilroy topped Lemoore’s Brandon Rocha for the gold at 119 pounds while Justin Arredondo of Buchanan topped Weimer for the 130-pound title by the same score. Vinny Pisani of El Modena defeated Kyle West of Oak Ridge at 135 pounds by a 3-1 margin.
The hometown favorite, Travis Rasmussen of Bakersfield, was unable to hang on for the gold medal as he fell to Andrew Balch of Buchanan 1-0. Rasmussen was the top seed from the Central Section, but had actually lost to Balch two weeks earlier at the divisions finals. Balch finished third at the Central Section masters.
David Klingsheim of Liberty and Roger McCovey of Del Norte joined Welch as champions from the North Coast Section. Klingsheim avenged a loss to San Leandro’s Markjay Acosta at the North Coast Section finals with an 8-6 win at 112 pounds. Meanwhile McCovey won a battle of undefeated wrestlers in the heavyweight match with a 2-1 win over Central Catholic’s Dominic Galas. McCovey was 40-0 entering the match while Galas was 55-0.
Kody Klaus of the defending state champion Vacaville Bulldogs was the only other champion with a 3-0 win over Angel Garcia of San Dimas.
The Central Section and Sac-Joaquin Section each finished with four champions while North Coast had three, Central Coast Section had two and the Southern Section had one.
California Brackets and Final Team Score
Round by Round Action for Finals Matches
Match Results for Each Weight Class
Other State Meet Results
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