BAKERSFIELD - At the center of the Mechanics Bank Arena, Richard Figueroa and Tristan Lujan each had their arm raised in the CIF State finals on Saturday.
The Selma High wrestlers both placed first in their respective weight classes at the CIF State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield.
Figueroa became a three-time state champion, while Lujan earned his second straight title and third consecutive medal. It was Lujan’s final time competing at the high school level, as the senior will continue his athletic career at Michigan State.
“It kind of hurts, he’s a senior,” Figueroa said about Lujan. “The bond that we have and all the practices that we go together, I’m going to miss it.”
Lujan defeated Clovis West’s Laz Maldonado in a 7-1 final in the championship bout at 120 pounds. Figueroa claimed the 113-pound title after earning a 5-3 victory over Clovis North’s Joey Cruz. It was the fourth overall time this season and the third consecutive week that the junior bested Cruz.
Before the finals, Figueroa was 37-0 and was responsible for all three of Cruz’s losses this season. Cruz had a 36-3 record before Figueroa (38-0) handed him his fourth loss.
Despite beating Cruz for the fourth time, Figueroa wasn’t satisfied with his championship performance.
“I didn’t like the way that I performed and that’s what I could say to myself,” Figueroa said. “I shouldn’t have gave up two, I should’ve rode him out. He’s been practicing on bottom, you could see that, I just need to adjust and I’ll hold him down for sure next time.”
Figueroa led 2-1 after the first period after a takedown with 17 seconds left in the round. Cruz tied the score in the second period on an escape and the match would be 2-2 going into the third.
Before the third period, Figueroa chose to start the round on bottom, a decision that led to the junior scoring an escape point and taking a 3-2 lead at the 1:20 mark. With 29 seconds remaining, Figueroa stretched his lead to three points on a takedown. Cruz scored his third point on an escape with 13 seconds left.
“That’s one of the top guys in the country. Richard is the man,” Lujan said. “That’s my teammate, we’re a dynamic duo.”
Even though his junior season is completed, Figueroa still has wrestling ahead of him before he enters his senior campaign.
“I have junior worlds coming up, so it’s going to be a busy year after this and just go on from there,” Figueroa said.
In Lujan’s match, he and Maldonado wrestled through a scoreless first period, but the future Spartan picked things in the next round. Lujan started the second period on bottom and escaped within the first 12 seconds of the round.
After constantly working for the takedown, Lujan finally took Maldonado down to the mat and extended his lead to 3-0. Lujan scored the takedown with 59 seconds on the clock.
Maldonado chose to start the third period in a neutral stance and Lujan would take him down 19 seconds later. Holding a 5-0 lead, Lujan controlled the majority of the third period, working for the pin and not allowing Maldonado to escape.
The Clovis West senior escaped with 24 seconds left, but Lujan scored on his third takedown of the match with seven seconds remaining.
“It’s my last ride,” Lujan said. “I wanted to go out on a win and be a state champion.”
Lujan finishes his senior season at 28-2 with both of those losses coming against Buchanan’s Carlos Negrete Jr. in the finals of the CIF Central Section Division I and Masters tournaments.
Selma brought nine state qualifiers to the three-day tournament and five of them placed. Other than the two champions, Kimo Leia (126 pounds) placed third, Devin Murphy (132) finished in fourth and Rudy Garcia (195) was eighth in his weight class.
George Zuniga went 2-2 at 152 pounds, following a 2-2 performance from Tyler Sepulveda in the 160 bracket and Isaiah Hernandez completed his tournament run at 3-2 in 182 division.
“Overall, I think the kids peaked at the right time,” Bears coach Sam Lopez said. “I’m proud of what we did as a staff and how the kids did as a group.”
As a team, Selma finished fifth overall and Buchanan were the champions, winning its fifth consecutive title in dominating fashion. Buchanan finished with a score of 261 points and had a 77.5 margin of victory over second place St. John Bosco-Bellflower. Selma finished with 131 points and were behind Clovis (fourth, 159), Poway (third, 182.5), and St. John Bosco.
“If we finish in the top five, it was a damn good season,” Lopez said.
The Bears finished ahead of Clovis North, who placed sixth overall at 129 points. The boys tournament ran simultaneously with the girls tourney, which ended in a first place finish for James Logan-Union City. The Lady Bears placed seventh, an improvement from last year’s 10th place finish.
“We have a lot of work in the offseason and it starts on Monday,” Lopez said. “We a got a young group of a couple kids coming up so that’s our main thing. We’re going to be pretty young next year and the year after, but we’re expected to win. We’re a Division I program and we’re just going to have to play catch up with some of these guys.”
The reporter can be reached at 559-583-2413 or email@example.com
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