Five went. One came home a state medalist.
Oakdale’s Nico Colunga picked up his second state medal Saturday with a sixth-place finish at 113 pounds in the CIF State Wrestling Championship at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena.
“The boys wrestled hard,” Mustangs coach Steve Strange said of his five-man contingent. “The tournament is not getting any easier. It is a tough one. There are a lot of good wrestlers here and a lot of matches could have gone either way. It just depends who steps up and gets it done.
“Colunga is the team leader. He is dedicated and it shows. He has two state medals.”
Colunga (113) did it the hard way. The Mustang junior lost his first match Friday and then won five in a row, including a thrilling 4-3 win over Corona-Centennial’s Dean Parker in an elimination bout Saturday morning. Colunga followed up his win over Parker with an 8-2 decision over Tristin Gilliland of Clovis before losing to Central’s Adrian Camposano in the consolation semifinals and then in the fifth-place match to long-time foe Durbin Lloren of Buchanan 5-1.
“I have been wrestling him (Lloren) since I was 7,” Colunga said. “It was like a chess match and he won.”
All the Mustangs wrestlers won at least one match. Logan Eaton (106) was 3-2 while Frank Trent (170), Trevor Williams (120) and Tanner Reeves (160) each went 1-2.
Colunga finished with an overall record of five wins and three losses, earning sixth place honors. He ran the table in dominant fashion at the Masters Meet earlier this month in Stockton to earn his spot in the State Meet, and looked to carry that momentum into Bakersfield. However, things started off rocky for Colunga as he lost his opening round match. All that did, however, was light a competitive fire under Colunga, as he rattled off the five consecutive victories to get himself into medal contention.
“I had to fight my way back and I knew that my hard work would help me,” Colunga said of having to battle hard after his opening round loss.
The grappler offered thanks for the support he received along the way, from family, friends, coaches and more.
“I want to thank God, my mom, my dad,” he said, along with offering kudos to his teammates, and the Ching family.
“This is an awesome group. Anyone who comes into it is blessed beyond belief,” added Nico’s mom, Ranae. “I am so grateful to them all.”
A junior, Colunga looks to come back next season with his sights set on a return to the state stage, and said knowing people are pulling for him and the rest of the Mustangs is one of the keys that drives them.
“I have to say, Oakdale has the best community. I feel that we, as a family, are so blessed to be around such an incredible group of people,” he said. “We had so many fans with us along the way. Parents, former coaches and just wrestling fans in general.”
Representing the 106-pound weight class in Bakersfield was junior Logan Eaton, who finished with a 3-2 overall record. Much like he did last week, he won his first two matches, winning one by pin and taking a decision in the other. However, similar to the Masters, Eaton would struggle in his third match and was pinned. He bounced back with a victory but then lost a ‘must win’ match against Michael Rangel of Calvary Chapel. Rangel would come away with the 5-2 victory, ending Eaton’s journey to stay in the hunt for a medal.
The youngest Mustang representative in the tournament was talented sophomore, Trevor Williams. Williams was seventh in the 120-pound weight class in the Masters to qualify for state and got off to a promising start as he pulled off a victory over Clovis’ Julian Gaytan. However, Williams’ state appearance would come to an end early as he was pinned by Roy Galvan of La Quinta and lost by default to Curtis Booth of Folsom.
Oakdale’s lone senior representative was Tanner Reeves, who qualified after taking seventh in the Masters in the physical 160-pound weight class. Reeves would be overwhelmed by Freddie Garcia in his first match, but would regroup with a victory over Connor Watson of Folsom. However, Reeves’ weekend and high school wrestling career would end with a pin fall defeat to Ruben Alva of Lake Elsinore 2:55 into the match.
The final Mustang hopeful was Frankie Trent. The junior was coming off a memorable performance at the Masters, as he won seven consecutive victories after an opening round loss in the powerful 170-pound weight class to secure his spot in the state meet. However, Trent couldn’t repeat his performance from the week prior, and lost two of his three matches, ending his weekend. He lost the opener, bounced back with a win over a Del Oro opponent but then exited the state competition via a loss by pin.
Coaches also praised and thanked the parents for the support, everything from making snacks and sandwiches, serving up breakfast and offering an encouraging word all along the way.
Although the Mustangs wrestling team walked out of Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena without a state champion, the team does have a state medalist and was highly successful throughout the season. The success included winning their eighth consecutive Valley Oak League title in February, taking a Section crown and getting five wrestlers to the biggest stage in California.
Still to come, Oakdale will send Logan Eaton, Frankie Trent, Trevor and Cody Williams, Abel Garcia, Miguel Ibarra, and Nico Colunga to the 25th Annual NHSC National Wrestling Championship March 28-30 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, VA.
Leader correspondent Dave Campbell contributed to this report.