LEMOORE — The Paso Robles Bearcats wrestling team sent eight wrestlers to Lemoore last week to participate in the Masters wrestling tournament and two, senior Nathan Garcia and junior Porter Tanner, advanced and will be wrestling at the State tournament this weekend at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
“It was a tough tournament and you could end up with none one,” Paso Robles head wrestling coach John Azevedo said. “We thought we would get a couple, maybe three, we thought maybe Cameron Gonzales could qualify. You know, Kyle Miller also, he is a senior, and we had a few kids that were right there. They wrestled well overall but you got to be at your best every match.”
Tanner went 3-2 at the CIF Central Section Masters tournament and finished in seventh place at 132 pounds. You must finish inside the top 10 at Masters in order to qualify for State.
In his first match, Tanner faced a wrestler from Selma and beat him soundly, 8-2, before having to deal with some post-match theatrics.
“He was kind of a sore loser about it and got up in my face after the match,” Tanner said. “But I told him the scoreboard doesn’t lie.”
In the second round, Tanner was able to get a little revenge when he faced a familiar opponent in Alex Rodriguez of Visalia-Redwood, who beat Tanner in the C.I.T. tournament earlier this year. Tanner had hoped the two would meet the previous weekend at Divisionals but Rodriguez lost the match that would have paired them together. Tanner left no doubt this time winning, 6-1.
“After that, I was in the quarters and I had the number seventh-ranked guy in the state from Clovis,” Tanner recalled. “We knew that was going to be a tough match and it was. It was 0-0 after the first period. I threw legs in and I got reversed from legs and ended up being down 4-0.”
The Cougars’ Giano Petrucelli, who is currently ranked eighth in California, won the match, 6-0.
Tanner’s next match was against another familiar opponent in Issac Kephart of Arroyo Grande who he beat 2-0 to secure his place at State.
The junior lost his next match but it didn't matter since he had already qualified for State.
Garcia finished his Masters’ tournament with a 5-1 record. Garcia entered as the No. 8 seed which meant that he would get the top-seeded wrestler in the 152-pound division in the State in Jace Luchau.
Garcia breezed through his first two matches on Thursday.
“The first match was pretty easy. I was basically just using it as a warm-up for my other matches to come,” Garcia said at practice on Tuesday. “Same thing in my second match. The kid didn’t really want to wrestle all that much he was running away and it was kind of hard to score points on him. That was a frustrating match but I ended up winning that one.”
This was only Garcia’s second tournament since cutting down to 152 for CIF and an additional week helped him tremendously after saying he felt, “kind of gassed,” during his match against Benny Banduenga at Divisionals.
“I am feeling really good actually [since cutting to 152],” the senior explained. “The main thing was I had a lot more offense this tournament so that goes along with how you are feeling and how hard you are willing to work for your takedowns. I felt good I wasn’t really getting tired I think I just needed a week or two for my body to get used to it but now that it is I feel a lot stronger.”
Coach Azevedo echoed the thought saying, “His first cut was a little tough, that was his first time down but he felt good at Masters and wrestled well, he is strong.”
Garcia was battling with Luchau as both wrestlers were looking for a crease, just a sliver of opportunity, and Luchau found it and eventually got Garcia into a headlock before winning the match via pin.
Garcia won the rest of his matches on the way to place third and has already faced who is expected to be the best wrestler in his weight class which has given him confidence saying his goal this week is to “just go in there and wrestle each match one at a time and try and dominate.”