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Smiths road back to state could be lined with redemption
Wrestling All Area


• ALEX GARCIA (120), Lathrop senior: Ranked as high as third in his division in the SJS, Garcia had a tough second-round draw in eventual third-place finisher Lawrence Saenz of Vacaville before getting eliminated in his next match at Masters.

• MIA HILL (101), Weston Ranch senior: The only female from a Manteca-area school to qualify for the CIF State Championships, Hill came back to defeat Elk Grove’s Esmeralda Arroyo in the consolation semifinals of the SJS/NS Regional before settling for fourth place.

• ALEX LOAIZA (126), Sierra senior:: Injuries kept the talented Loaiza from making a run in the postseason, but he made it count in his final campaign by becoming just the second-ever wrestler from wrestler to advance to the second day of the SJS Masters. 

• STEVEN MARTINEZ (285), Manteca senior: Football standout had narrow minor decision losses to Oakdale’s Matt Kjedgaard prevent him from earning titles in the VOL and SJS Division IV tournaments. 

• JAYSEN REINDEL (215), East Union freshman: The youngster proved he could hold his own against the big boys, coming up with exciting come-from-behind wins throughout a season that culminated in a more-than-respectable 2-2 finish at Masters.

• BRANDEN RULLAN (113), Sierra junior: Avenged a previous loss to take third at divisionals and was one of the final four Manteca-area grapplers still standing late in Day 1 of Masters before finishing 2-2. 


— Jonamar Jacinto

Tristan Smith has his return to Bakersfield all mapped out, with push-pins marking all of wrestling’s usual stops: league and divisional championships, Masters and lastly, state.

At some point, the Ripon heavyweight hopes that path intersects with Vacaville. 

Mike McCauley, Smith is coming for you.

Smith’s standout junior season finished with a bittersweet performance under the intense lights at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, the site of the CIF State Championships. He went 2-2 in his first state appearance, rebounding from an opening-round loss with back-to-back victories to reach the consolation bracket’s third round.

There, he ran into McCauley, whom he beat one week earlier in the third-place match at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament. Smith said that victory – a methodical 3-1 triumph – proved acumen and speed could win in a weight class dominated by giants.

“It showed me what I can accomplish. It was my goal to place and go to state,” said Smith, the Bulletin’s All-Area Wrestling MVP, “and that was one of the hardest matches for me to win. I wasn’t at an advantage, physically, so I had to tire him out to win that match.”

McCauley flipped the script in Bakersfield, stopping Smith’s season short of the podium. The junior had hoped to return home with a medal, a feat his older brother Trevor Smith accomplished twice in 2012 and 2013.

Travis Smith, the oldest of the Smith sons, qualified for state in 2011.

“It keeps him motivated. He’s consistently trying to compete with his brothers and what they did,” said head coach Glen White said. “I think it’s a good thing. It’s good motivation. He expects a lot out of himself and they expect a lot out of him.”

Instead of a medal, Smith carries a chip on his shoulder for McCauley, who has beaten Smith in two of their last three meetings. The first came handily at USA Wrestling’s sophomore state tournament.

White believes their budding rivalry is healthy and beneficial to both grapplers. 

“It’s a good measuring stick. The kid is also a junior and he’ll be one of the better heavyweights in state next year,” White said. “My guess is Tristan wants to make sure he’s better than him.”


The two were ranked Nos. 18 and 19 in the final California Wrestler state rankings with Smith holding the slight edge. The rankings were published ahead of the state meet.

“I want a rematch to prove I’m the better wrestler,” Smith said. “I will be coming for him.”

First things first.

Smith realizes speed and smarts won’t be enough. He has to get stronger and develop a broader set of skills. He said there were moves he practiced but never executed in a match because he lacked the confidence.

Next season, he won’t be so gun-shy. 

Smith plans to wrestle and train with Ripon Tribe Wrestling throughout the summer, while sprinkling in workouts with the Ripon High football team. His calendar also includes entry at the World of Wrestling Reno World Championships in April. 

“This year, I played it safe and didn’t use moves I could have used. I wasn’t sure of myself,” Smith said. “I’ll be practicing those moves and hopefully be able to use them when the time comes.”

Smith’s run to state began with a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship. He won his first three matches at the Masters meet to secure his trip to Bakersfield.

 He lost in the semifinal to the eventual Masters champion, Jake Minshew of Casa Roble, but rebounded in the consolation bracket to take third.

At state, Smith’s undersized frame finally buckled. Already at a 20- to 30-pound disadvantage, Smith showed up at Rabobank Arena with a back injury and the flu bug. He did well to battle through the ailments, but ultimately lacked the physicality and stamina to reach the podium.

Smith shook off a first-round fall to Kingsburg’s Andrew Vorhees, rattling off back-to-back wins in the consolation bracket over Washington’s Raysean Jones and Shasta’s Elijah Siaz. 

In hindsight, Smith believes the big stage and magnitude of the moment were his biggest obstacles. 

Not McCauley.

White hopes Smith uses that letdown to fuel his off-season program, but wants to make sure his star pupil appreciates the highlights, too. Smith won 40 of his 50 matches.

“He’s very confident and he expect the best out of himself. I think he would have liked to have placed at state and all those things,” White said. “Overall, he had an outstanding season. To finish third in our section and go to 2-2 for a junior heavyweight is an outstanding season.”