When Chris Urquizo was a sophomore, he was a big surprise — a nervous Merced High wrestler who made it all the way to the raised mat of the CIF State Championships.
Two years later, Urquizo found himself on that same mat. And this time, he finished the job. Urquizo pinned Buchanan's Martin Fabbian, capping a 47-3 season with a state championship at 152 pounds.
He was No. 1 in the state for most of the year, and knew the pressures that came with the lofty ranking. He didn't disappoint. For his efforts, Urquizo has been named The Bee's 2009 High School Wrestler of the Year.
"It's something I dreamed of, pretty much my entire life," Urquizo said.
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Those dreams began when Urquizo started wrestling as a youngster, but they blossomed when he was in the eighth grade. That was when he watched as his brother Steven gutted his way through the consolation bracket to place third in the state.
"I saw him take third and I saw him on that podium," Chris Urquizo said. "I told myself I was going to win it all some time, right then."
He came close two years ago, winning close matches in nearly every round en route to the finals. He lost 6-3 to Will C. Wood's Maxx Harpel at 140 pounds.
He was poised to make his mark the following year. But he didn't wrestle a match last year; he was academically ineligible.
"I didn't have the grades," Urquizo said. "I didn't take care of business in the classroom. So I stayed away from wrestling."
And then he came back with a vengeance.
"I picked it up in the classroom, and then I picked it up on the mat," he said.
After he beat De La Salle's Tyler Sheridan in a tournament at North Torrance High School, Urquizo moved to No. 1 in the rankings. He stayed there, chased by Sheridan and, later, Central Catholic's T.J. Belton. Urquizo beat Belton in the finals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament, going to state with a full head of steam.
He drew on his experiences as a sophomore.
"That year, there were so many upsets," Urquizo said. "Being the No. 1 guy, I knew everybody was gunning for me. I never took it easy out there."
He rolled through his side of the bracket and found Fabbian — who beat both Sheridan and Belton — waiting for him. And late in the first round, Urquizo caught him in a cradle for the pin.
Next up for Urquizo will be the senior nationals at Virginia Beach. Then, it's on to Fresno City College, where his brother Steven won a state title last year. Chris Urquizo's high school voyage had its share of peaks and valleys.
"It made the state title mean that much more," he said.
Contact the sports department at email@example.com or call 578-2300.