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Grappling Groundbreaker
Nuanez is Sierra Highs first state qualifier
Alex Nuanez became Sierra High’s first-ever wrestler to qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships this past winter. - photo by Bulletin file photo

The first ever berth into the California Interscholastic Federation Wrestling Championships was not enough for Sierra High standout Alex Nuanez. No, making it to Bakersfield wouldn’t suffice and mere weeks after his groundbreaking CIF berth, it’s obvious just making it back won’t cut in next season.

Nuanez, The Bulletin’s All-Area Wrestler of the Year, put together Sierra’ most impressive postseason run in school wrestling history with a third-place finish in the 171-pound division of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament.

His berth into the state meet did not start on day two of the Masters. That debut, onto arguably the brightest high school wrestling stage in the nation, began three years ago during Nuanez’ first season as a Timberwolf.

“Knowing that I was a match away from making it to state a year ago made me want it even more this season,” Nuanez said. “It was a goal I’ve had since my freshman year, to be the first person to go to state from here.

“Becoming the first really gave me drive all of this season.”

Success has followed Nuanez throughout his Sierra career, just missing on an opportunity to accomplish a state berth as a sophomore. His junior season left little to be desired. Nuanez closed the season with an impressive 42-10 record, with nearly 70-percent of those victories (28) coming by pin.

The season-long success didn’t end in Bakersfield, with Nuanez posting a respectable 2-2 record. His final loss of the season, a 3-1 overtime travesty, brought his season to an upsetting halt, yet provided Nuanez with a template for success for a return trip.

“I had so many coaches telling me that they made it to state in their high school years and they were happy just to have made it,” Nuanez said of his preparation for state. “They didn’t want me to make the same mistake that they did. As soon as I dropped my first one, I was pretty upset, but I remember telling my sister that I am not losing this second match.

“I went out there and won it in overtime.”

Nuanez’ success had minimal impact on the Sierra High season as a whole. Wrestling is an individual sport with team goals, making a difficult Sierra season tough to swallow. The program will return Aidan Foster, Jose Cortez and of course Nuanez, giving the squad a nucleus of talent to build upon.

“It’s very important to me that we become a better team,” Nuanez said. “I’ve already been helping out my workout partner (Cortez), and we’ve worked with a lot of people one at a time. We’ve got a lot of people who just come to practice just to come. We need more people that come and want to learn.

“It just seems like it’s hard to find people who want to work hard and get better.”

Nuanez has forfeited participating for the Sierra High baseball team to take advantage of the challenging freestyle circuit to improve his speed and strength. With legendary status secure at Sierra High, Nuanez is poised to make sure his legacy isn’t complete without two state tournament berths.

“After this year I already know that I have the skills to make it back to state,” Nuanez said. “Next year I just need to get better with some fine-tuning. I just need more mat time; I’m going to start hitting up the big tournaments and of course stay into freestyle. For me it will be about working on my shots, hiding the ankles and hitting the weights.

“Fine-tuning everything will be the biggest thing for me to get back.”