STOCKTON – The Mecca for California high school wrestlers is Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield for the California State Wrestling Championships. To get to Rabobank can be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. To get some revenge along the way is nothing less than priceless.
Sierra’s Brenden Rullan began Saturday’s competition in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Championships at the Stockton Arena in the 120-pound consolation bracket and needed two wins to reach the Top 6 and punch his ticket to Bakersfield. Standing in the Sierra junior’s way was his nemesis, Cody Williams of Oakdale.
Williams had beat Rullan three times this season, including the finals of the Valley Oak League and SJS Division III Championships. After a scoreless first period, Williams took a 1-0 lead in the second round and after that is was all Rullan who came back for a 5-2 win.
“It felt great,” Rullan said. “I knew he (Williams) was going to come in hard and I was going to have to come in harder.
“He likes to low single so I had to watch my stance. I took it to him and I gave it my all.”
Rullan needed one more win against another familiar VOL foe, Kai Caspillo of Kimball. This time Rullan had the prior advantage with three wins over Caspillo this season and it showed with Rullan notching a second-round pin.
“It feels amazing to be going to state,” Rullan said. “All my hard work paid off but I am not done yet.”
Rullan took fourth. He earned his way to the consolation final with a 6-2 win over Escalon ‘s Kyke Jimenez before being tripped up 6-3 in the third-place match by Michael Mello of Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills.
Rullan is the second Sierra wrestler to make it to state. His assistant coach, Alex Nuanez Jr., was the first in 2010.
“It was good to see Alex Jr. in his corner,” Sierra coach Alex Nuanez Sr. said. “Brenden is Alex’s protégé. Albert Loaiza and our coaching staff put a game plan together for each match and the results showed.
“Brenden wrestled really tough. He went 6-2 in the tournament and had four pins. So we will get ready this week, make sure his weight is fine, work out a little bit and see what we can do in state.”
Ripon’s Tristan Smith (285) won his first match Friday with a pin before being dispatched to the consolation bracket with a one-point overtime loss to Mike McCauley of Vacaville. Smith then pinned his way through his next two matches to be in the same position as Rullan on Saturday, needing two wins to advance to Bakersfield.
He got those two wins with pins over Christian Esquer of Will C. Wood-Vacaville and Golden Valley-Merced’s Cortland Morse.
Smith earned a berth in the consolation finals with yet another pin, this one coming over El Dorado’s Zachary Brazell in the second round. In the third-place match with Delhi’s Jesus Flores, the Ripon senior started the second period with a takedown-near fall five-point move and held on for the 5-4 decision to win the consolation championship.
“I should have been in that match,” Smith said of the first-place match won by McCauley. “I expected to be going back to state, but to actually win my last six matches and finish 7-1 at Masters feels really good.”
Ripon sophomore Donny Fontillas (113) survived the first day but lost his first match Saturday to be eliminated.
“We are really excited with Donny,” Ripon coach Glen White said. “He is an extremely hard worker. He worked his way up from going two-and-out here last year to making it to the second day this year. He won Divisionals this year after taking fourth last year. He put in a ton of work in the off season and was excited to do it and I think he will be even better next year.
“Tristan had to win four in a row to make it and he won six in a row. He did a great job.”
Rullan and Smith begin the State Championships on Friday morning at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.