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It’s lonely at the top. Perhaps in no sport more than wrestling.

For the 10 area boys who qualified for the CIF state championship in Bakersfield this weekend, the days leading up to the biggest meet of their lives can be wholly unfamiliar and even a bit solitary. Gone are the crowded workout rooms. Gone, too, in most cases, are teammates.

Advancement to the North Coast Section meet thinned the herd. It was thinned considerably more after NCS, from which only those who finish in the top three advance to this weekend’s state meet.

It’s a time of hyper focus and small tweaks. It’s also a time for wrestlers to scramble for appropriate workout partners, those who will test them but not hurt them. But when just one or two guys from a team make it, where do they turn for partners? It’s not like track or swimming, when an athlete, coach and stopwatch are a perfectly acceptable training trio.

In some cases, teammates stick around to act as grappling partners.

“It’s kind of an unwritten rule — if your partner makes it, you have another week of practice,” Ukiah coach Thomas Fragoza said.

It’s also a kind of badge of honor. Those partners had something to do with the success of the state-bound athletes.

Fragoza’s 220-pound senior Dylan Miles will wrestle this weekend, but he spent the early part of the week and the entire stretch of the season working out with teammate Clayton Murray. Murray placed eighth in NCS, not enough to advance, but certainly good enough to prove his worth as a workout partner for Miles.

“He’s definitely a team player,” Fragoza said. “There was no question about him showing up.”

Other teams have turned to those who were once foes to give their guys workout partners.

Analy coach Ryan Stevens linked up state-bound 113-pound junior Trevor Bagan with wrestlers from Sonoma County League-champion Petaluma High to keep his guy fresh.

“It’s definitely weird not having my team with me. It’s a little different in that regard,” Bagan said. “But the kids in Petaluma that I practice with, they are all pretty good and they worked me out pretty hard.”

And luckily for Bagan, wrestling runs in the family. In addition to working out with the Petaluma High athletes, his younger brother, freshman Preston, has been working out with him.

“We shorten practice to about an hour,” Stevens said. “We can eliminate technique and really focus on, at this point in time, whatever Trevor needs. Then he can get 40 minutes of live wrestling.”

Bagan is not alone in his solitude, nor in his effort to piecemeal together partners this week. Coaches are sometimes called on to lace up their shoes and wrestle.

“I’m probably 40 pounds heavier than him but I’ve still been wrestling my whole life,” Maria Carrillo coach Tim Bruce said of his state-bound guy, senior Cameron Casey. “He just has to work a little bit harder. Everyone else is light if he’s been wrestling with his coaches.”

“We are actually pretty fortunate,” Fragoza said. “Out of the coaching staff, there are three of us who can put our wrestling shoes on and ante up.”

In one case, potential opponents are prepping for the same tournament, same weight class. And in a twist, they are prepping together.

Healdsburg senior Anthony Merlo and Carrillo’s Casey are familiar with each other. They are friends, but also rivals, according to Bruce. Merlo beat Casey in the NCS semifinal but both will compete in the 170-pound division at state.

“The two kids got together and said ‘Let’s do it,’” Bruce said of joint workouts this week. “That’s what the kids want. We kind of go back and forth: ‘Cameron, you are going to be a dummy for Anthony to do this.’ It’s give and take. We are training our athletes. It’s a pretty unique situation, I’ll admit.”

“This is the first time we have ever gone outside of the room to train,” Bruce said.

Lest anyone think this is too chummy, Bruce said if the two 170-pounders collide somewhere in the bracket, it’s on.

“They are such good friends,” he said. “But if they meet each other down the road, it’s all business.”

In Upper Lake, it’s 126-pound sophomore Jose Fernandez who is going it alone. Even for those teams that qualified more than one wrestler, sometimes the weight classes simply don’t pencil out. Case in point: Cardinal Newman qualified two wrestlers. Senior Jake Butler will compete at 132 pounds and senior Gunnar Hayman is in at 285 pounds. Not exactly a workout match made in heaven.

At Windsor, the mix is more realistic. The Jaguars advanced three wrestlers to the state championship: 145-pound senior Luke Au-Yeung, 152-pound junior Perez Perez and 160-pound senior Steven Allee.

Even with the updated practice plans that the postseason brings for high school wrestling, coaches say their athletes don’t lack for motivation and making whatever partnership they can get work. And most have their game dialed in already.

“Those guys that are making it that far? They are dedicated,” Bruce said. “Why mess with the success they’ve already got?”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”