BAKERSFIELD Sport is passed down from generation to generation, binding young and old through a mutual admiration and love. Many of the competitors in Saturday's CIF State Wrestling Championships are the offspring of wrestlers.
One such progeny, Oakmont's Peter Santos Jr., took the 170-pound title, but minutes after his triumph at Rabobank Arena, he took a moment to acknowledge a family tragedy. Santos dedicated the match to the memory of his paternal great-uncle Enrique Rojas, himself a former wrestler, who passed away Thursday after a heart attack.
"He was a big part of me getting into wrestling," Santos said. "I felt him with me during the match, telling me to push through."
Santos never trailed in his bout against Sultana of Hesperia's Corey Griego but broke a 2-2 tie with a reversal with 11 seconds remaining and held on for a 4-3 win.
Santos is the area's second state champion in the last three years and second straight from Oakmont. His former sparring partner, Jake Elliott, took home the 145-pound title in 2011. Santos said he spoke on the phone with Elliott on Friday night and that Elliott told him simply to relax and "do what I do."
It was the fifth time he and Griego wrestled this season, and Santos came away with a 4-1 record against him.
"There's no advantage or disadvantage at that point," Santos said. "It's equal play you can just go out and wrestle."
While he had Rojas in his heart, Santos also had his father in his corner Saturday night. The two shared a lengthy, emotional embrace in the tunnel after exiting the competition floor. Santos Sr. wrestled for Benicia High School.
"It means so much having him there," Santos Jr. said. "Sharing (wrestling) has brought our family closer together."
The area also produced three second-place finishers: Bella Vista senior Shayne Tucker, Folsom junior Nick Fiegener and Elk Grove senior Scott Votino. In all, the Sac-Joaquin Section produced 20 medalists, 11 from the Sacramento area.
Sepeda's swan song Not all endings are of the storybook variety on medal day. Natomas senior 220-pounder Jordan Sepeda went 0-3 on Saturday, aggravating a shoulder injury he sustained playing football in the fall, to place sixth. He entered the weekend ranked third in the state at 220.
Though he qualified for the state championships all four years of high school, his was a high school career of great promise marred by injury.
As a sophomore, he was within one win of a medal before tearing an ACL that forced him to withdraw.
Wrestling just half his junior season, he rehabilitated the knee to make it back before bowing out early on the second day. He also was hit by a car walking home from school the week before last year's Masters meet but competed there and at state.
"I'm not satisfied this is a bittersweet feeling," Sepeda said. "It's frustrating, but life goes on. I'm happy for what I have and for what I've earned."
Trujillo's triumph Tucker's Bella Vista teammate and training partner, senior 126-pounder Victor Trujillo, recovered from a loss Saturday morning in the consolation semifinals, a match that would have put him in the third-place bout, to claim a fifth-place medal.
Trujillo defeated Artemio Flores from James Logan of Union City by erasing a 3-1 deficit after one round to win 8-5. The match was tied 5-5 with less than 30 seconds remaining when Trujillo scored the decisive takedown.
"As long as there's time on the clock, there's a chance," Trujillo said.
HOW THE LOCALS FARED IN MEDAL MATCHES
Fifth: Victor Trujillo, Bella Vista, def. Artemio Flores, James Logan-Union City, 8-5.
Fifth: Jason Ladd, Clovis, def. Lorenzo De La Riva, Folsom, 8-5.
Championship: Luke Wilson, Righetti-Santa Maria, def. Shayne Tucker, Bella Vista, 7-3.
Championship: Isaiah Martinez, Lemoore, pinned Nicholas Fiegener, Folsom.
Championship: Peter Santos, Oakmont, def. Corey Griego, Sultana-Hesperia, 4-3.
Third: Sohrad Movahedi, Granada Hills-Los Angeles, def. Nick Troquato, Ponderosa, 8-5.
Championship: Jeramy Sweany, Vacaville, def. Scott Votino, Elk Grove, 6-1.
Fifth: Victor Raigoza, Orland, def. Jordan Sepeda, Natomas, by injury default.
Third: Tyler Hecht, Franklin, def. Nour Abdullatif, Roosevelt-Eastvale, 5-2.
Seventh: Jeff Camilli, Ponderosa, def. Jaharee Taylor, Elk Grove, 4-3.