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Wrestling preview: Selma seeks state supremacy

Wrestling preview: Selma seeks state supremacy

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After four straight finishes at fourth place, is this the year the Selma wrestling team finally gets over the hump?

“We have to win those little close matches,” Selma co-head coach Sam Lopez said. “Last year, we easily could’ve had four guys in the state finals, but two of them lost one-point matches, close matches. When those opportunities come when you’re supposed to get that takedown and just miss it, you got to seal the deal. You have to get those takedowns when they’re there.”

Last season, Selma placed fourth behind Clovis (third), Gilroy (second), and Buchanan, who won its fourth consecutive title.

With a glut of returning talent and the addition of a few wrestlers, the Bears are built to compete for a state title. Reigning state champions Richard Figueroa and Tristan Lujan are part of the returning group.

Figueroa, a junior, is coming off back-to-back seasons as a CIF State champion while Lujan, a senior, claimed his first title last season. Figueroa (113 pounds) and Lujan (120) are the top-ranked wrestlers in their weight classes, according to the California Wrestler.

Figueroa, an Arizona State verbal commit, expects to end the high school season on top for the third consecutive season, but he also wants to help the Bears capture the program’s first state championship.

“It’ll make my coaches happy and everyone happy to know that we did as a team and no one gave up,” Figueroa said on the team’s state title goals.

As for Lujan, he’s seeking his second consecutive individual state championship along with improving as a wrestler before he wrestles for Michigan State next year. Before he graduates, Lujan said he wants to be part of a state-winning team.

“I feel like our team is pretty strong and we got a chance at winning state this year as a team,” Lujan said. “We could really do that if we be at the weight we’re supposed to be and perform the way we’re supposed to.”

Other notable returners include Jacob Rivera (126 pounds), Tyler Sepulveda (152), Isaiah Hernandez (170), Rudy Garica (195), and Michael Renovato (285). Lopez expects Nate Gonzlez, Blake Estrada, and Julian Roque to contribute throughout the season.

Rivera (No. 4, 126 pounds), Sepulveda (No. 10, 152), Hernandez (No. 19, 170), Garcia (No. 14, 195), and Renovato (No. 20, 285) enter the season ranked. Louie Armstrong earned honorable mention in the 160-pound weight class. Both Renovato and Roque have not joined the wrestling team yet due to the football team’s deep postseason run. The Bears will be playing in a state playoff game in Lancaster this week.

The Bears added transfer students Devin Murphy (Clovis North, 138 pounds), Kimo Leia (Kingsburg, 132), and George Zuniga (Central, 145). All three wrestlers are ranked in their respective weight classes. Murphy is ranked No. 2 while Leia is No. 7 and Zuniga is at 16.

Lopez said the team’s strengths will be in the lower weighted divisions, but the depth in the upper weights could make a difference down the stretch than year’s past.

Other than Figueroa and Lujan, Rivera is the team’s only returning state placer. Rivera placed sixth in the 120-pound division last season. Hernandez also competed at the state tournament last year.

Before the Bears compete in the postseason, Selma will go head-to-head with the Buchanan Bears in a dual match for the consecutive year. The second annual “Battle of the Bears” will take place at Selma High School on Jan. 21. Last year’s meeting took place at Buchanan High and the dual resulted in a 44-14 victory for the opposing Bears.

Lopez is expecting a packed and rowdy crowd when the two state powerhouses meet.

“I think the administration already knows that. They’re actually excited about having them come here,” Lopez said. “They’re already talking about maybe bringing some other bleachers and add some extra seating, but yeah it’ll probably be standing room only. In a smaller gym like that, 3,000 to 4,000 people will feel like 10,000 because it’ll be so damn loud. It’ll make it exciting.”

Before the highly anticipated matchup takes place, the Selma Bears will compete at various tournaments including the Rose City Championships in Oregon, the Doc Buchanan Invitational at Clovis High and the Five Counties Invitational in Southern California. Selma will host the 2019 Central Sequoia League Dual Championships on Jan. 22.

The Bears began the season at the Power Cat Duals at Franklin High School near Sacramento on Nov. 26. This weekend, Selma will compete in the San Diego area at the La Costa Canyon Classic at La Costa Canyon High School on Friday and Saturday.

The reporter can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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