BAKERSFIELD — Fabian Garcia saw a familiar foe standing in his path to the state semifinals.
The Turlock High sophomore lost twice at state last year — both times to East Bakersfield's Peter Gonzalez. The two met again in Friday's quarterfinals in the 119-pound weight class at the CIF State Wrestling Meet at Rabobank Arena.
"I was a little nervous," said Garcia, who placed seventh in the state last year. "He beat me twice last year; he was the only guy who beat me here (last year)."
But Garcia was a different wrestler this time around.
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He jumped on Gonzalez early, taking him down and getting back points, then cruising to a 10-1 victory and moving on to this morning's semifinals. He'll face Northview's Steven Salinas, the Southern Section champion, with the winner going to the state finals.
Garcia is one of three Stanislaus District wrestlers to advance to today's semifinals. An additional nine district wrestlers are still alive in the consolation rounds.
The other two locals going to the semis are both at 152 pounds, and are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state.
Central Catholic senior T.J. Belton beat Bakersfield's Bryce Hammond 4-0 in his semifinal. Belton, who made the semis last year as well, will face Buchanan's Martin Fabbian this morning.
Merced senior Chris Urquizo beat Clovis West's Nikko Reyes 3-0 in their quarterfinal. Urquizo, ranked No. 1 in the state, will face Calvary Chapel's Tigran Adzhemyan in today's semis.
Garcia, his shock of pink hair making him one of the meet's more recognizable wrestlers, looked possessed against Gonzalez. He charged him from the opening whistle and was, for this match, both quicker and stronger. He took Gonzalez down early and got back points, then got more back points in the second period.
"When I put him on his back the first time, I started feeling confident," Garcia said. "After that, I could relax a little bit. I played it a little safe (in the third period)."
He's guaranteed his second consecutive state medal, and is one victory from going for the gold. He's got tough competition in Salinas, but Garcia is wrestling well.
"I feel I'm wrestling at my best right now," Garcia said. "It's right where I want to be."
Belton and Urquizo faced off in the Sac-Joaquin Section 152-pound championship last week, and they're one victory away from another finals matchup.
It's Belton's second consecutive visit to the state semis, but he's on a different level.
"Last year, I was good enough to make the semis, but I didn't know that," he said. "Last year, showed me that I can get here."
And this year?
"Now I have the confidence," he said. "I won some big tournaments and it isn't like I'm surprised to be here. I feel like I should be here.
"I know what being at state is like."
Waiting for Belton is Fabbian; he called it a "surprise."
Fabbian beat De La Salle's Tyler Sheridan 4-2 in their quarterfinal. Sheridan was ranked No. 3 in the state and has a victory over Urquizo earlier this season.
"It's a big surprise not seeing Tyler in the semis," said Belton, who is 1-0 against Sheridan this year. "He's one of my good friends, I love him. But I didn't want to see him in the semis. He's pretty good."
Instead, he has perhaps a more favorable matchup against Fabbian. Belton beat him 8-3 at the Five Counties Invitational earlier this year.
"He's still very good," Belton said. "He wouldn't be here if he wasn't. But it's still a surprise it isn't Sheridan."
Urquizo is on the other side of the bracket, and perhaps he already had his wake-up call of the tournament.
In a second-round matchup against Agoura's John Combs, Urquizo jumped out to a big lead before getting reversed and rolled to his back. Urquizo ended up winning 14-7, but he gave up the match's final six points.
"I got a little sloppy there," Urquizo said. "I really had to pick it up in the quarters."
He won 3-0, but it was a comfortable victory, one where Clovis West's Reyes had few chances to score.
"That's it," he said. "No more sloppy matches."
He may just have two more in his high school career. As a sophomore, Urquizo was a state finalist, then missed his junior year due to academics.
"I still felt some nerves, being back here," he said. "But that'll be gone tomorrow. Hopefully just two more matches."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.