STOCKTON — Mark Taijeron's dark hair is accented by a blond streak which finishes near his left eye.
It's his wrestling I.D., his self-expression. There's something else besides his appearance, though, that wrestling fans are learning about the Merced High junior: He's good and getting better at exactly the right time.
Taijeron marched emphatically through three opponents Friday and straight into the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship. He also clinched a trip to the CIF State Championship next week in Bakersfield -- an accomplishment that brought a wide smile to his face.
"It feels good," he said. "Now I want to win it (the Masters) and put my name in the book."
Taijeron will be hardpressed to equal the damage he laid on the 132-pound class Friday. He opened by pinning Daniel Chicchon of St. Mary's in only 14 seconds. He continued with a 10-3 win over Chase Herrin of Hughson. Then he finished his day's work with a 13-4 major decision over Paul Fagbamilla of Beyer.
Both Taijeron and Merced coach Clayton Schneider agree on why the wrestler is surging in February -- his confidence grows seemingly with each outing.
Taijeron (37-8) has rolled to CCC and Section divisional titles. Clearly, he's finishing what he started last year.
He went 3-2 at the Masters a year ago, an experience he built on Friday.
"I have more confidence," Taijeron said. "It (last year's Masters) got rid of most of the nerves this year."
Schneider sees a wrestler coming of age.
"He's been impressive the last two weeks. He's tough to beat when he's on," Schneider said. "Mark did not let the moment take advantage of him. He's wrestling to his ability now."
Taijeron will meet Los Banos senior Jimmy Felix, who upset Tyler Lawrence of Escalon 8-6 in overtime, in today's semifinals. Incredibly, Felix and his sophomore brother Tyler (106) both are Bakersfield-bound.
The top seven in each weight class already have qualified for State. They are assured of no worse than sixth-place finishes. Work is left, however, for the many contenders pounding through the consolation rounds.
One of them is Atwater senior Kyle Thorpe (160), who complicated his weekend by being pinned in the final second of his first-round match against Tanner Reeves of Oakdale. To his credit, Thorpe earned himself another day with three straight victories.
Today's program at Stockton Arena begins with a consolation round at 9 a.m., followed by the semifinals at 10:15. The finals, to be held alongside the third-place and fifth-place matches, are scheduled for 3 p.m.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter on @modbeesports