By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Last 2 standing for state
Travis Smith of Ripon High is one of two area wrestlers participating in the 2011 CIF State Championships this weekend.
When the CIF State Wrestling Championships begin at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield Friday, two area wrestlers will be on hand to try and accomplish a feat that every wrestler in the state opened the season pursuing. Ripon High’s Travis Smith and Sierra High’s Alex Nuanez are the area’s last two standing.

Smith finished with Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament in sixth place, earning his trip south with a top-seven finish. Smith’s journey has been a long one, and took until his senior year to come to fruition.

“To me, it just means that I have made it,” Smith said. “This is what I have been working for since I was a freshman. I knew this was possible; I knew I could make it.

“It was a matter of working hard and getting better.”

Smith will open the tournament against Marshal Thrasher of the San Diego Section. Thrasher is a senior from Romona High and landed a spot on The California Wrestler’s honorable mention list for the 215-pound weight class.

A win in his first match will usher Smith into the second round where he would face the winner of the Will Basler (Woodside High) and William Knowles (Calvary Chapel) expected matchup, with Knowles currently sitting as the state’s No.1 wrestler in the weight class.

“Right now, I’m just thinking about who it is I have to wrestle,” Smith said. “I have already looked at the brackets and who I’ve got, and I feel I can win a couple of matches.

“So that’s what I am going to try and do.”

Nuanez has the privilege of being somewhat familiar with the task ahead of him. The Sierra senior made the trip to Bakersfield his junior year, earning his berth in a triumphant run through the consolation bracket.

That part has not changed for Nuanez, continuing his pattern with a three-win run through the consolations, but Nuanez is hoping that is the only aspect that looks similar to his season-ending run a year ago.

“This is pretty much the same deal as it was for me last year,” Nuanez said. “I didn’t place last year, so now that is something that I am really looking forward to.

“As soon as I get that state medal then it will be different.”

Nuanez finished his state debut 2-2 after dropping his final match on a questionable call as time expired. Nuanez’ return trip solidifies him atop the wrestling standings in the area and definitely sends him to the top of the list for the Sierra High history books.

“I think Alex is the only one around here going down because of he has trained so long,” Alex Nuanez senior said. “He’s been on the mat ever since he was 5 years old, and that’s what it’s all about. You have to get the mat time in.

“It’s all about heart and desire for him. He came in Saturday (Masters) and said ‘I’m not losing’.”

Nuanez opens the State journey against Ryan McWatters from Sultana High. McWatters is ranked fifth in the 171-pound weight class and comes into the tournament on the heels of the Southern Section championship. A win in the first round would put Nuanez up against Dan Cerrillo of Belarmine Prep (San Jose).

“I know I have a top seed and a real match right off the bat,” Nuanez said. “I’ve watched him wrestle and I wasn’t amazed or anything.

“It doesn’t rally phase me, it’s just another match.”

Action will get underway in Rabobank Arena Friday at 9 a.m., with Day 2 kicking off at 9 a.m. Saturday.