BAKERSFIELD — The quest for a state title continues.
The Selma wrestling fell short of a championship after taking fourth place March 3 at the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling tournament at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
Reigning champion Buchanan took home its third-straight title with a team score of 219 points. Selma scored 168 points behind Gilroy (180 points) and Poway (171 ½) high schools.
Bears co-head coach Joey Areyano said competition between the top four teams was intense on the first day of the tournament.
“We would have a really good round, then Gilroy would have a good round and then Buchanan and Poway,” Areyano said. “It was just going back and forth.”
For Selma, eight of its wrestlers placed at the tournament with two finishing as finalists. The eight state placers is the most in the program’s history. Out of the two finalists, only one made it to the top of the podium.
Bears 106-pounder Richard Figueroa earned his first CIF State title after defeating Carlos Negrete - a freshman from Clovis North in a 6-1 decision. It was the second-straight week the Selma freshman dominated Negrete on the mat. Figueroa defeated him 8-0 in the 106 pound finals bout at the CIF Central Section Masters tourney.
“I was a little bit nervous because that’s how I always am,” Figueroa said about going into his match. “I knew once I pushed the pace he was going to break and that’s what I did. I broke him.”
After Figueroa’s match, he and his older sister Gracie Figueroa (four-time state champion) became the first brother and sister duo to win CIF State titles.
“That’s crazy,” Richard Figueroa said about their accomplishment. “I’m very happy and just emotional.”
The younger Figueroa finished his freshman season with a 48-2 record and was undefeated in California. His only losses came at the Walsh Ironman classic in Ohio, one of nation’s toughest high school wrestling tournaments. At the Ohio tourney he placed fourth, but he finished on top at many tournaments including the Doc Buchanan, Zinkin Classic and the Five-Counties Invitational.
Tony Mendoza was the other Selma finalist. The senior lost to Peyton Omania of De La Salle in a 3-2 decision.
With 10 seconds to go, Mendoza tried to score two points off a takedown, but he was unsuccessful of taking down the future Michigan State Spartan.
“It sucks because I’m a senior,” Mendoza said after his loss. “It’s my last year here and that’s what sucks the most.”
Mendoza said he plans to wrestle at the next level, but is undecided where to attend. He will start planning for his next step since the season is officially over.
Mendoza finished his senior season as the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the state with a 46-5 record.
“He has nothing to be ashamed of,” co-head coach Sam Lopez said about Mendoza’s performance. “He had an outstanding tournament.”
The 145-pounder is one of the team’s members who will be graduating this year. Selma will have a talented squad returning next season that includes Richard Figueroa, Christian Rodriguez, Jace Luchau, Tyler Sepulveda and Tristan Lujan.
“We could possibly have four finalists next year,” Lopez said, “but this tournament is a monster and you never know. You've got kids number one in the state [this year] …that didn’t make the finals.”
The other Bears wrestlers who placed in the tournament were Lujan (113 pounds, fourth place), Robert Areyano (132, eighth), Luis Ramos (138, eighth) Luchau (152, fourth), Oscar Diaz (160, fifth) and Rodriguez (170, third).
Once the tournament ended, Lopez said the quest for a state title has already begun.
“It doesn’t matter,” Lopez said, “if we’re the state champs by 100 points or dead last, we’re going to come out on Monday and put in some time and get better.”