By Zak Cowan
Poway High had two big chances on the second day of the CIF State Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. And who better to have on the mat when a spot on the raised stage is on the line than its star senior Victor Lopez.
But for the second straight year, Poway would not be represented in the final 14 matches of the tournament.
Lopez went into the third round of the 145-pound weight class semifinal match leading 3-1 over Santiago High’s Christian Pagdilao, but it wouldn’t last long. Pagdilao would quickly escape and take Lopez down in the first 30 seconds, moving in to the lead 4-3. With back and forth reversals, the score fluctuated constantly during the final minute of the match. But Lopez was the odd man out, losing 8-6.
The Titans would finish in second place as a team for the fifth time in program history. Clovis went on to win its third straight state title.
Sophomore Ralphy Tovar was defeated 14-3 in his semifinal match against top-ranked Aaron Pico of St. John Bosco. From the beginning of the match, it was evident that Pico was going to roll to the 132-pound finals.
“We weren’t going to beat the No. 1-ranked guy in the nation,” Poway coach Wayne Branstetter said. “But we had a chance to beat the other kid.”
That “other kid” was Pagdilao, who Lopez defeated in last year's consolation bracket.
But this time around, the outcome was much different.
Lopez said that the added pressure of being ranked first in the state was a big reason for his loss; and being the final Titans' wrestler standing after his teammate went down just minutes before had all the Poway eyes in the building looking right at him.
“I just didn’t take the pressure the right way,” he said. “I should have been embracing being ranked first in California, but I was nervous the whole time and scared of getting taken down or losing a match.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Branstetter is proud of the way his team wrapped up its season and the tournament.
“They are a great bunch of kids,” he said. “This is a big state, and to be second ... in the state is really an accomplishment.”
Four Titans, including Lopez, would place after fighting through the consolation brackets.
Lopez and teammate Stevie Cervantes finished third in their respective weight classes. Tovar would win his last match of the day in a 4-0 decision over Liberty High’s Austin Solari to lock up fifth place in the 132-pound weight class. In the 106-pound weight class, Tirso Lara, who stumbled in the quarterfinals, would finish in seventh place after winning by fall over Nico Colunga of Oakdale High.