Tested – over and over again – but never defeated, Ponderosa senior Zack Velasquez is a California wrestling champion.
Velasquez defeated Santiago of Corona’s Justin Thomas in the 152-pound final of the CIF State Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Rabobank Arena, a 2-1 decision in double overtime that had the crowd howling.
“It feels pretty good,” said Velasquez, who finished 55-0. “There wasn’t a lot of action in that match, but I don’t mind riding him out and winning a close one.”
That was evident throughout the tournament. Four of Velasquez’s six matches were decided by one or two points. In the final, he won when he escaped in the first double-overtime session and then stayed on top of Thomas in the second.
“I’m in good shape, so I’m fine with going to overtime,” Velasquez said. “I train three times a day. I feel like that’s my advantage.”
Thomas nearly won the match in the third period when he used a double-leg shot and tried to drive Velasquez to the mat, but Velasquez threw his hips back and sprawled out of Thomas’ grip.
“I wasn’t worried; I knew that if I hipped it hard enough, I would be able to fend it off,” Velasquez said.
That wasn’t the champ’s closest call of the day. In the morning semifinals, he thought he had lost to San Marino’s Luke Troy via an overtime takedown. But officials waved off the takedown after a review. Velasquez won that match in double overtime, too.
“I thought it was all over until I saw them go back and talk,” he said. “I said, ‘All I need is a slim little window, and I’ll take advantage.’”
Folsom senior Lorenzo De La Riva also reached the state final at 160 pounds but lost a 12-5 decision to defending champion Colt Doyle of Poway.
“I’m proud of the way my season ended,” said De La Riva (40-6). “I was happy getting here, even if it didn’t end the way I wanted it to.”
Casa Roble heavyweight Jake Minshew lost his first match of the season in an overtime nail-biter to Selma’s Jose Alvarez in the semifinals. Minshew rebounded to take third place with a resounding pin of Frontier of Bakersfield’s Jarrod Snyder in just 36 seconds.
Folsom finished 10th in the team standings with 64 points; Clovis won its fifth straight team championship with a record 276.5 points. Oakdale was eighth and Ponderosa 18th.
Other area medalists (top eight) were Oak Ridge’s Brandon Claiborne (fifth at 145), Del Oro’s Landon McBride (sixth at 113) and Folsom’s Curtis Booth (seventh at 126).