Merced High's Urquizo wins school's first wrestling title in 22 years

BAKERSFIELD -- Chris Urquizo wore the 1987 polyester orange Merced basketball warmup proudly around Rabobank Arena.

The year was significant because that was when Marvin Eastman won a state wrestling championship. Eastman was the last Merced wrestler to a win a state title.

Until Saturday.

Until Urquizo.

The Merced senior celebrated his 18th birthday in style by pinning Buchanan's Martin Fabbian in 1 minute, 30 seconds to win the 152-pound crown at the CIF State Wrestling Championships on Saturday. Urquizo broke Merced's 22-year drought.

"I can't believe it," said Urquizo, who finished second at state in the 140-pound weight class in 2007. "It means a lot. I wanted this all year. I couldn't have asked for a better season."

Former Merced wrestler Mike Rodriquez found the '87 warmup in an old storage closet at Merced High. Rodriquez gave it to Urquizo before his semifinal match on Saturday morning.

Urquizo then went out and defeated Calvary Chapel's Tigran Adzhemyan, ranked No. 4 in the state, 9-5 to reach the finals.

Fabbian had a much tougher road to the finals. The junior came into the tournament unranked and defeated the No. 8-, No. 3- and No. 2-ranked wrestlers to earn his way into the championship against Urquizo, who was ranked No. 1.

"I wasn't going to underestimate him," Urquizo said. "He made it there and he deserved to be there."

As soon as Urquizo appeared from the tunnel, a large group of Merced fans began chanting slowly, "Urquiiiizo! Urquiiiizo!"

The Merced crowd soon jumped to its feet as Urquizo grabbed Martin's leg and lifted it off the mat 10 seconds into the match.

Martin fought off Urquizo for roughly 20 seconds before the Merced star finally scored a takedown to take a 2-0 lead.

Urquizo then grabbed Martin's head and locked in the cradle, putting Martin's shoulders on the mat.

"The cradle was there," Urquizo said. "I can't pass that up."

The referee's hand hit the mat, signaling a pin and the celebration began.

Urquizo jumped into the arms of his older brother Steven, a one-time state placer at Merced and 2009 California community colleges state champion, and then into the arms of his head coach Clayton Schneider.

"I told them I loved them," said Urquizo, who compiled a 47-3 record this season. "I did it. I definitely did it. It's the best feeling ever."

Schneider was obviously emotional after the match. Urquizo is his first state champion since taking over the Merced wrestling program.

"I'm so proud of him," he said. "I can't even explain it. I don't think it will sink in for me for awhile. Yeah, I was jumping up and down out there. But this will take awhile.

"I'm just glad it's over. Not that I'm glad to see him go. It's just this week has been so long with all the build up and everything else. He did what he was supposed to do. I'm happy for him."

He wasn't the only one happy for Urquizo.

When Urquizo went to visit with his family, they lifted him on their shoulders and carried him around Rabobank Arena singing, "Happy Birthday."

A birthday Urquizo will never forget.