Bearcats sending eight wrestlers to Masters

From L-R Nathan Garcia (154 lbs), Jacob Marmalejo (114 lbs), Porter Tanner (128 lbs), Riley Lowry (134 lbs), Peyton Kilber (122 lbs), Kyle Miller (145 lbs), Blake Haupt (222 lbs). Cameron Gonzales (not pictured)

SHAFTER— The Paso Robles Bearcats wrestling team took 10 wrestlers to Lemoore for the CIF Central Section Division 2 wrestling championships and eight of them will be heading to Lemoore this Thursday and Friday for Masters. Jacob Marmalejo, Peyton Kilber, Riley Lowry, Porter Tanner, Kyle Miller, Nathan Garcia, Cameron Gonzales and Blake Haupt all finished inside the top eight and advanced to the next round.

Tanner, Garcia and Gonzales each just missed out on winning their division taking home second place finishes for Paso Robles.

“The first day I felt pretty good,” Garcia said at practice on Tuesday. “I pinned both my kids in the first period and then in semifinals, I pinned the kid in the second period with a cradle. In the finals, I wrestled Benny [Banduenga, ranked No. 16 in State] from Righetti and it was a pretty good match but, I don’t know, I kind of felt like I had an off day and kind of gassed out and let my defense up and he got two shots on me and I lost the match 2-1.”

This is Garcia’s first time wrestling since his freshman year and his first time cutting down to the 152-pound division this season which he thinks gives him the best opportunity at Masters and State.

Tanner also cruised through his first day winning both of his matches in dominating fashion. Tanner, who has spent the entire season ranked in the State, was matched up against a wrestler from Kinsburg in the finals. Tanner took a 1-0 lead into the second period but gave up two points in the final two periods and lost, 2-1. Tanner will be seeded fifth in his weight class in Masters and says his ultimate goal is to get another shot at wrestling his cousin Henry Porter, who is currently ranked No. 4 in the State.

“We were pleasantly surprised last weekend,” Bearcats assistant coach Chris Montiero said. “We qualified eight and really went into the weekend with the hopes of qualifying six and we exceeded that expectation and I think the exciting part of that is that only two of them are upperclassmen and a couple of the guys are freshmen.”

Lowry and Kilber are the two freshmen that will be representing the Bearcats at Masters, beginning Thursday. Lowry finished in seventh place at CIF and Kilber, who wrestles in the 120-pound division lost his second match of the first day and then cruised into third place.

“I wrestled a really good kid [in his second match] and it was 6-2 before he pinned me in the second,” Kilber said. “Then in the finals, I was beating my kid 8-2 and then I pinned him and that is how I got third.”

Kilber has a very real shot to make some Paso Robles history this weekend. The freshman standout is seeded 12th for Masters and is trying to become the first freshman wrestler in school history to reach the State Championships which he says, “would mean a lot,” to him.

Jacob Marmalejo, who took sixth place in the 113-pound division, Kyle Miller, who took fourth in the 145-pound division, and Blake Haupt, who placed third in the 220-pound division will also be fighting for a spot in the State Championships with the Bearcats beginning on Thursday.

“Wrestle hard, believe, do the best you can,” are the words of encouragement Paso Robles head wrestling coach John Azevedo is preaching to his boys. “I think some of them went to CIF not thinking that they could qualify for Masters and they did and I think it’s the same when you go to Masters, maybe you don’t think you can make it to State or get top 10 but you go and you battle and you never know. We are hoping to get two, three, four kids to State this year.”

One of the changes that came with moving to the Central Section this season was losing the league tournament that usually came the weekend or two before wrestlers headed to CIF. The players and coaches on the teams had mixed feelings on the matter, some were happy for the extra rest while others like the additional tournament to get one last final tune-up in before the really important matches begin.

It will be a tough two days for all the Bearcat wrestlers who will now wrestlers who are ranked inside the top 10 in the state and will need to stay calm during hard matches.

“This weekend almost at every weight class we are going to see probably top four to top eight ranked kids in the state so we are going to run into some buzzsaws,” Montiero said. “So what we have been talking about, and what I gave a speech yesterday, was about mental toughness and being able to come back from a loss because your whole goal is to punch a ticket to the state meet and not focus on taking a loss but coming back and recovering from it.”

Follow sports reporter Connor Allen (@ConnorCAllen) and the Paso Robles Press (@PasoPress) on Facebook and Twitter for updates on how the Bearcats fare this weekend.


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