Wrestling: Lemoore’s Martinez, Clovis High chase state titles
Lemoore 160-pounder Isaiah Martinez and Clovis High are poised to cash in on rare trifectas this weekend at the CIF State Wrestling Championships.
Martinez seeks to become the 17th three-time champion in the event’s 41-year history, while the Cougars can match an effort only they and Calvary Chapel-Santa Ana have achieved before with a third consecutive team title.
The CIF’s only single-division state championship tournament begins at 9 a.m. today and Saturday at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena, with the finals set for 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
Martinez — the champion at 152 and 140 pounds the past two seasons after finishing third at 125 as a freshman — can stake his claim to being among the best in the history of an event that’s featured thousands of wrestlers since its 1973 inception.
The Illinois-bound senior is in line to become the 29th four-time medalist and could join a club of seven who have three titles and a third-place finish or better. He could become one of five in state history to walk off the mat a medal-match winner in his final bout of the season four times.
Martinez enters 50-1, nationally second-ranked, state top-ranked and without a loss to California opposition since his freshman year. He opens against Logan Lawrence of West Valley-Cottonwood.
“I don’t want to take anything away from anyone else, but this could put him up there among the greats to ever put (wrestling) shoes on in California,” said Lemoore coach Marcio Botelho, the 215-pound state champ in 2000. “You can’t take away what he’s done on the mat statistically. He’s put himself on a whole different level.”
Martinez has been at his best at the state meet the past two years. He had three pins, two technical falls and a major decision in the final as a sophomore, then pinned all five of his opponents as a junior, including defending state champion Jake Elliott of Oakmont-Roseville in 1:26 for the title.
“I believe you are seeing greatness,” Botelho said of Martinez, who is 200-7 in his four seasons. “I don’t think I’ll ever get to experience or coach a kid like this again in my lifetime. You only get someone like this once in a blue moon. He’s special.”
Clovis, meanwhile, is projected by thecaliforniawrestler.com to win the team title, which would be the third time in school history the Cougars have been state champions three straight seasons, also accomplishing the feat in 1974-76 and 1990-92. Calvary Chapel-Santa Ana did it between 1996-98.
It would add to a Clovis treasure trove that already includes the most team titles in state history (10), the team scoring record (256.5, set last season) and most individual state placers in one tournament (10 in 2012).
The Cougars will chase their 11th team title with 12 qualifiers, tied with Poway for second-most in the tournament.
Buchanan qualified 13, but neither the Bears nor Poway or Vacaville (which qualified 10) figure to match the firepower of Clovis, which has seven top 10-ranked wrestlers, including No. 1′s Adrian Salas (182) and Nick Nevills (285).
And the Cougars are the favorites even with six first-year varsity starters — Khristian Olivas (113), Lane Barnes (126), Xesus Velarde (132), Dominic Kincaid (152), Brody Brand (160) and Hexton Coronado (220) — among their state qualifiers.
“When a new group comes in, they have already bought in and it’s their turn,” said Clovis coach Steve Tirapelle, who added the program’s success starts with the work Kenny Martinez does as the coach at feeder school Clark Intermediate. “Kids look forward to being part of the tradition and carrying the torch.”
Vitals: Matches begin today at 9 a.m.; Saturday’s consolations start at 9 a.m., with the finals beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Site: Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield
Admission:Tickets start at $11 Friday, $12 Saturday and $13 for the finals.
By Nick Giannandrea