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State championships not kind to Merced-area wrestlers

There are no guarantees at the CIF State Wrestling Meet.

Section champion? Meaningless. Highly ranked? So is everybody else.

That was the story for Merced’s Romeo Ontiveros, the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion, who went 1-2 on Friday, the first day of competition. Ontiveros will watch the rest of the tournament from the stands today.

“He had a tough draw. I mean, the kid that beat him first is in the semifinals,” Merced coach Clayton Schneider said, referring to Rancho Buena Vista’s Joseph Granger, who pinned Ontiveros in 4 minutes, 44 seconds. “We knew that kid was tough, you know. That kid’s placed at a couple of big tournaments this year, so we knew it wasn’t an easy matchup for us.”

Ontiveros recovered to pin Armijo’s Jorge Perez in his first consolation match, but an 8-5 loss to Clovis East’s James Quintana ended the tournament for the Merced junior.

Ontiveros’ teammate, heavyweight Tony Lopez, also had a tough draw, starting the day against Clovis High senior Nick Nevills, who is aiming for his third state championship. Nevills needed 1:26 to pin Lopez.

“You know, anything can happen down here,” Schneider said. “You’ve got to bring your A-game, and hit the ground running. There’s no time to dilly-dally around down here.”

Lopez bounced back with a three-match win streak, pinning Servite’s Cameron Amador, Archbishop Mitty’s Daniel Mendoza and Laguna Hills’ Jose Ballesteros before the run came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Glendora’s Ryan Padilla.

The only Merced-Area wrestler to survive to the second day was Atwater’s JoJo Ochoa, who won his first two matches (5-4 over Paramount’s Noe Sandoval and 5-3 over Bakersfield’s Travis Yarbrough) before falling 6-4 to Sanger’s Cornelio Sanchez. Ochoa won twice in the consolation bracket to survive, ending his long day with a double-overtime 2-1 victory over Leland’s Jack Loumena.

Of Dos Palos’ three wrestlers, Nathan Pimentel made it the furthest, losing his final match of the night to Bishop Amat’s Nigel Ruiz.

Los Banos junior Tyler Felix went 2-2 in the 113-pound bracket, losing his last match 9-7 to Jared Luty of American High. Felix nearly turned him for a reverse in the last seconds after a comeback victory the match before.

“I had a single right at the end, and my coach was yelling to go to the head, but he had my wrist locked,” Felix said. “I tried to get it out and lock the cradle hopefully, but he was holding on tight. I was right there, and time ran out.

“I’d rather get pinned or something. It’s heartbreaking. I’m right there with the kid.”

Though Felix is disappointed to be watching second day, he was happy to do better than last year’s 0-2 performance, and is already making plans to make the second day next year.

“For sure,” he said. “I promise.”

Antonio Melo, Hilmar’s first state qualifier in 21 years, lost by pin to Royal High’s Deric Ginther, then defaulted out of his consolation match with an aggravated shoulder injury sustained last week.

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