Buhach Colony High School’s Brandon Mendoza, stung by a near-miss at last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters, still made the trip to the CIF State Wrestling Championship.
His mission was two-fold: 1) Support his teammate Jay Johnson and 2) Find out what he’s been missing.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” Mendoza recalled, “but I felt I should have been competing there.”
Come Friday, the BC senior will wear a singlet on the floor of Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena. He will walk in through the wrestlers’ entrance, not the spectators’ doors, after his second-place finish Saturday at Masters.
Mendoza (30-6) won’t dwell much on his third loss this season to West’s Greg Viloria – via second-round pin – in the 113-pound title match. Instead, he’ll take with him a stirring 4-1 Masters run that carried him to California prep wrestling’s mountaintop.
4 Matches won at Masters by Buhach Colony’s Brandon Mendoza
Joining Mendoza in Bakersfield will be fellow state qualifiers Jacob Pavey of Golden Valley (220), Livingston’s Rajanvir Chahal (106) and Jose Sanchez (120), and Delhi’s Jesse Flores (285). All placed in the top six of their respective weight classes during the two-day meet at Stockton Arena.
Mendoza was eliminated from Masters in 2015 by Oakdale’s Jake Abeyta. One year later, he avenged that loss and punched his ticket to state by beating the Oakdale star 1-0 on Friday.
“That (the 2015 loss) was what drove me so hard,” Mendoza said. “I didn’t want something like that to happen again. I had to secure my spot.”
Once it was secured, Mendoza sustained his momentum Saturday with a come-from-behind 4-2 decision over top-seeded Jacob Seto of Elk Grove in the semifinals. Amazingly, Mendoza lost three times to Seto until he beat him when it mattered most. Seto was ranked eighth in the state, Mendoza 32nd.
Pavey, a senior, also exorcised a demon of sorts at Masters. He was forced to slog through consolations, a campaign spiced by a 5-3 decision over fellow 220-pound star Shane Torre of Calaveras. It was the rubber match for them this season, and the stakes were high.
“I was emotional,” Pavey said. “It could have been my last match.”
Undaunted, Pavey led all the way to eliminate Torre. He followed with a 7-0 win over Daniel Maldonado of Will C. Wood-Vacaville and a 5-4 victory over Garrett Monroe of Pioneer-Woodland. Kyle Jennings of Ponderosa-Shingle Springs beat Pavey 3-0 for third place.
“It was a dream come true. I’ve worked so hard,” Pavey said. “Making it to the second day at state is my goal.”
Chahal and Sanchez, the Livingston lightweights who sparkled all season, were pinned in the first round of their semifinal matches. Chahal, a lanky junior, lost once in consolation before he pinned Keanu Perez of Sonora in the third round for fifth place at 106. Sanchez, a senior, recovered from his consolation loss by defeating Kyle Jimenez of Escalon 8-3 for fifth at 120.
The atmosphere (at Bakersfield in 2015) was crazy, but I felt I should have been competing there.
Flores, who became the first Delhi wrestler to qualify for state on Friday, extended Pablo Miller of Del Oro-Loomis into overtime before he was beaten 4-3 in the semifinals. From there, the junior heavyweight stopped Jack Farley of River Valley-Yuba City by fall before he lost 5-4 to Tristan Smith of Ripon for third place.
Still, Flores’ 4-2 performance at Masters illustrated his marked improvement.
“Jesse has been a little more aggressive this season,” Delhi coach Ray Cedres said. “He lost to Smith last year but he got him at the divisional final this year.”
Dos Palos qualified three wrestlers for the state tournament at the Central Section Masters. Adrian Marrufo (126 pounds) placed fourth, Armando Pimentel (132) finished seventh and Chance Benadum (145) finished eighth to punch their tickets to Bakersfield.
Juarez places sixth at state
Atwater sophomore Courtney Juarez finished sixth at the Girls State Wrestling Tournament in Visalia on Saturday.
Juarez went 3-0 on Friday to reach the semifinals. She was pinned by Birmingham’s Alex Castillo in 2:37 in the semifinals. Juarez then dropped her two matches in the consolation bracket.
Packing for Bakersfield
106 – Rajanvir Chahal, Livingston, fifth
113 – Brandon Mendoza, Buhach Colony, second
120 – Jose Sanchez, Livingston, fifth
220 – Jacob Pavey, Golden Valley, fourth
285 – Jesse Flores, Delhi, fourth