Jesse Flores admits getting in his own head.
Clovis High School’s Seth Nevills boasted an impressive body of work entering Saturday night’s CIF State Boys Wrestling Championships 285-pound title match, with four pins in less than 90 seconds.
Flores, the Delhi senior, who was pinned by Nevills in two previous matchups, said the gaudy numbers had him over-thinking as he took the mat at Rabobank Arena. The slight doubt was enough to throw off the form Flores displayed on his path to the championship match, setting the stage for Nevills to record a fall at 59 seconds.
While disappointed, the second-place finish is still the best in Hawks history and puts Flores’ name into Delhi lore.
“The strategy going in was to try and stay in it and compete for as long as I could,” Flores said. “I wanted to just take it round by round, getting what I could get and trying to deny him what he could get. I was definitely worried about no one making it out of the first round against him. I over-thought it and psyched myself out.”
Nevills, who became the first wrestler in state history to complete the first three years of his high school career undefeated at the varsity level, was the aggressor from the onset.
The Clovis junior caught Flores off balance, scoring a quick takedown out of the gate. Thirty seconds later, he turned Flores onto his back. It looked for a second as if Flores might survive with a near fall and extend the match, but Nevills recovered and earned the fall.
“It wasn’t a great start,” Flores said. “I wasn’t expecting him to snap me down that fast. I had too much momentum going and he took me down. I truly did think I was going to get out of it. I saw an opportunity, but I guess I wasn’t fast enough. He caught me in a move, and you can’t let great wrestlers catch you in a move and hope to get away with it.
“I had a lot of people come out and support me. My family was here, my workout partner from MJC, friends from the football team and my best friend, Macy. It means a lot to go on a run like this with them here. A state title would have felt a lot better than second place but making history is making history.”
Flores was one of three Stanislaus District wrestlers whose state-title hopes came up just short.
Oakdale’s Abel Garcia (170 pounds) and Colbey Harlan (182) reached their respective finals but settled for second.
Garcia recorded a couple of escapes but could not get Palm Desert’s Anthony Mantanona down to the mat in a 5-2 loss. Harlan trailed Anthony Montalvo of Buchanan-Clovis 5-2 entering the third round. The junior made things interesting by quickly scoring an escape to open the third, but Montalvo defensively countered every attempt at a takedown the rest of the way for a 5-3 victory.
The Mustangs had the area’s best showing with four medalists, including Bronson Harmon (fourth at 160) and Ricky Torres (sixth at 132). Oakdale tied for seventh overall with De La Salle-Concord at 83 points. Buchanan ran away with the team title with 213.5.
Pitman also had a good showing with two state medalists. Isaiah Perez finished fourth at 170, while freshman Izzy Tubera took seventh at 106.
Hilmar’s Cody Rentrfo became the Yellowjackets’ first state medalist since 1992, placing seventh at 182. Central Catholic’s Steven Abbate rounded out the area’s medalists with a fifth-place showing at 138.
Two more area wrestlers were singled out as ambassadors of the sport. Golden Valley’s Brady Mello and Pitman’s Joseph La Rosa received the CIF Sportsmanship Award for their bodies of work over the course of the two-day tournament.
Mello (152) and teammate Caydin Wickard (106) reached the second day of the tournament but fell short of a medal.
Sean Lynch: 209-385-2476, @MSSsports