Joe Davidson

Ponderosa wrestler Velasquez zeroes in on state title

Zack Velasquez has his own perspective on perfection.

The Ponderosa High School senior wrestler is 49-0 this season. He’s won tournament championships across the state and was 4-0 to win last week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships in Stockton at 152 pounds.

“I’m feeling good, confident, but 49-0 isn’t the goal,” Velasquez said. “The goal is to win a state championship.”

That trek starts Friday as the CIF State Wrestling Championships get under way in Bakersfield. The finals are Saturday at Rabobank Arena, where Velasquez expects to be, and later at the top of the victory stand as the third first-place finisher in Ponderosa history, following heavyweight John Kaho in 2005 and 170-pounder Justin Danz in 2007.

To even medal would be the culmination of a journey with humble beginnings and a painful 2014 for Velasquez.

He admitted to being a bit overwhelmed when he first took to the sport as a fourth-grader.

“I wasn’t very good and got beat,” Velasquez said. “So I worked harder. I dedicated myself to this. It’s paying off.”

Frustration has also been part of his journey. A 27-0 start to last season came to a halt when Velasquez was sidelined by an ankle injury.

“He’s grown from that,” said Ponderosa coach Tyson Escobar, a four-time state-meet participant for the Bruins in the early 1990s. “I’m very impressed with Zack’s poise and what he’s done. Great year. He’s extremely hardworking. He’s put so much time into this. And he’s a great student, a 3.4 student, so he’s the whole package.”

Velasquez isn’t sure where he will attend college, but he knows what he wants to study.

“I’ll get into nursing,” Velasquez said. “I want to work in an emergency room. I want to help people who are in need.”

Other area section champions expecting to medal include Landon McBride of Del Oro (113 pounds), Devan Turner of Dixon (115), Brandon Claiborne of Oak Ridge (145), Lorenzo de La Riva of Folsom (160), Jerod Nooner of Folsom (220) and Jake Minshew of Casa Roble (220).

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.