BAKERSFiELD Nick Fiegener's state-championship moment was almost exactly a year in the making.
Fiegener, a Folsom senior, beat Corey Griego of Sultana-Hesperia 5-2 on Saturday in the 182-pound state championship at Rabobank Arena, but the accomplishment took a lot more than two takedowns, an escape and three minutes of blood time.
It took a year of thinking about his experience here last year, when he was the designated victim for nationally ranked Isaiah Martinez of Lemoore in the 160-pound state final.
It's incredible, he said. As a kid, a middle schooler, I dreamed about this moment. I got here last year and lost to a great wrestler. I saw what he was doing and I knew I had to get bigger, more explosive, more fearful.
Fifty-two weeks in the weight room and 20 pounds later, Fiegener was back on that familiar championship stage, wrestling a very familiar opponent. He had already defeated Griego three times this season, using each as a practice run for Saturday.
I definitely expected to see him here, Fiegener said. The key was winning on my feet. I did that in our first match. The next matches we decided to see what we could do from top and bottom and get every look from him.
The Sacramento area nearly had a much more surprising champion in Oakmont 160-pounder Kaleio Romero, who entered the meet ranked No. 7 in the state by The California Wrestler website but went all the way to the state finals, thanks to a 3-2 semifinal victory against No. 1 Alexander Graves of San Marcos.
But in the final, Romero came up short, losing 8-5 to Poway's Colt Doyle.
It's tough just that I came some close, Romero said. Everybody believed in me; my support system was amazing.
Romero had a takedown in the third period to cut Doyle's lead to 6-5, and he locked up a cradle with a chance to score more points or even pin Doyle. But Doyle rolled both wrestlers over and ended up with a reversal of his own.
I had a cradle locked up and I just went over too fast, and he scored, Romero said. I just wasn't wrestling smart. I wasn't wrestling the way I wrestle.
Seven other Sacramento-area wrestlers earned a state medal by finishing in the top eight of their respective weight class. That group was led by Rocklin's Skyler Gonzalez, who bounced back from a round-of-16 loss Friday night to win five consecutive matches before losing 3-2 to Johnny Beltran of Servite-Anaheim for third place at 182 pounds.
"When you lose a match, you've got to switch your mentality," Gonzalez said. "Every one else in (the consolation bracket) is in the same position, so you've got to stay fresh and ready."
Franklin senior Joey Banks lost a tight 4-2 decision in a 195-pound semifinal to state No. 1 Ian Baker of La Costa Canyon-Carlsbad. Banks finished fifth.
Fiegener was the only medalist for Folsom, which finished 11th as a team with 64 points. Del Oro finished 21st with 37 points, led by medalists Isaac Blackburn (fifth at 106) and Tanner Robison (eighth at 138).
"We're thrilled," Golden Eagles coach Dave Sanchez said. "We brought six, and two got medals. It's been a while since we've had two get on the podium."
Robison in particular was a pleasant surprise; he came in ranked No. 22 but beat No. 7 Abel Contreras of Porterville on Saturday morning to earn himself a medal.
"Tanner had his best tournament of the year," Sanchez said. "He turned it on."
Woodcreek heavyweight Dominic Balmer lost by technical fall to Clovis' Nick Nevills in the semifinals and finished sixth, and Casa Roble's Jake Minshew was eighth at heavyweight.
The Bakersfield Californian