Windsor's Perez Perez, Analy's Trevor Bagan win NCS wrestling titles
UNION CITY — Perez Perez outdueled every 152-pounder at the North Coast Section championships and outdid almost every wrestler from the Redwood Empire. Those weren't necessarily the competitions that concerned him most.
'It means a lot,' Perez said after winning the trophy as section champion. 'Especially this year, because I surpassed my older brother. He took second as a junior.'
The older sibling is also named Perez Perez (they have different middle names), and he also won an NCS title. But he didn't do it as a junior. The latest version, Perez David Perez, sure did. He vanquished Miramonte's Skylar Wright in the 152-pound final.
Analy's Trevor Bagan is a champion, too. He captured the crown at 113 pounds in the second-to-last match of Saturday night at James Logan High School.
That duo will be joined next week at the state tournament by eight other Redwood Empire wrestlers. Upper Lake's Jose Fernandez (126), Windsor's Luke Au-Yeung (145), Healdsburg's Anthony Merlo (170), Ukiah's Dylan Miles (220) and Cardinal Newman's Gunnar Hayman (285) finished second in their respective weight classes, and Newman's Jake Butler (132), Windsor's Steven Allee (160) and Maria Carrillo's Cameron Casey (170) all finished third, good enough for a trip to Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
'I am excited,' Allee said after grinding out a 2-0 victory against James Logan's Noah Mohapatra in the do-or-die third-place match. 'I wasn't really expecting to. I don't think a lot of people, except for my coaches, were expecting me to get to state. But I don't like to lose, and that seemed to get me where I needed to be.'
Most of the Empire state qualifiers are first-timers. Among them, only Perez, Hayman and Casey wrestled in Bakersfield last year.
Casey, a senior, thinks he'll be better prepared in 2017.
'A hundred percent,' the senior said. 'There's a tunnel that you walk through, and it's scary as (bleep). But I'll be ready for it this time.'
Windsor, the program that has dominated local boys wrestling in recent years, fell back into the pack this season as rivals like Ukiah and Cardinal Newman made up ground. But the Jaguars showed they aren't ready to relinquish their title just yet. They finished fourth, tops among Empire schools. Ukiah was sixth and Newman eighth. De La Salle dominated the overall competition to finish first.
Bagan showed smarts and determination in the 113-pound final. His opponent, Jake Lilienstein of De La Salle, spent the first round attempting what Analy coach Jimmy Stevens described as a two-on-one Russian, in which a wrestler methodically pushes his foe to the edge of the circle and more or less dares him to attempt a last-second move. Bagan didn't bite, and the round was scoreless.
As the match progressed, the Tigers junior began to assert himself. Bagan took a late lead on a single shot to the leg that turned into a double shot, and held on for a 5-3 win.
Perez showed his versatility in the 152-pound final, outmuscling Wright at some points and out-quicking him other times. The Miramonte wrestler spent much of the last two periods trying to escape Perez from the bottom position, with almost no success. Perez credits Windsor assistant coaches Cody Howe and Trevor Silva with helping him improve his top game.
'I used to not work turns or anything, or even try to do much. I'd just mainly stay on top of him,' Perez said. 'But now I'm turning guys more and more.'
With a trip to Bakersfield on the line, Cardinal Newman's Butler drew a tough assignment in the third-place match at 132 pounds. His opponent was Nate Paulson of Liberty, who had beaten Butler in the quarterfinals just that morning.
'I tried to keep my injured leg back more, because I knew he was shooting for it,' Butler said. 'And I tried to focus on winning the 50-50 positions.'
Butler has been wrestling with a torn meniscus in his left knee for two weeks. But he overcame it to turn the tables on Paulson.
It certainly wasn't easy. The bout was scoreless after two periods. Finally, Butler scored a point on an escape about halfway through the final round, and wrestled most of the final minute with a slim 3-1 lead.
His strategy? 'Lots of fakes, lots of head taps, moving in and out, circling. Do not stay flat-footed,' Butler said.
Allee's third-place match was a classic contrast in physiques. The Windsor senior is tall and lean for a 160-pounder. His opponent, Jales Logan's Mohapatra, is squat and beefed up like bodybuilder. Allee figured he could tire out his opponent. He was right. He scored a take-down with less than 40 seconds left in the final round and rejected Mohapatra's late attempts at a backward pin.
'I've just got to tie him up with my arms, basically,' said Allee, who is used to battling shorter, stouter kids. 'I'm really long, so it's hard to get to my legs. I can grab ankles and roll and stuff like that. I think being long is better. If you can figure out how to use it, it works well.'
Other Empire wrestlers who made the podium Saturday included fourth-place near-misses Casey Frazier of Cardinal Newman (145 pounds), Manny Martinez of Ukiah (182) and Aiden Henry of Windsor (195), and fifth-place finishers Blake Fredrickson of Lower Lake (106) and Tyler Winslow of Sonoma (170).
Henry very nearly became the Redwood Empire's 11th state qualifier. The senior engaged in an action-packed third-place match against Clayton Valley's Ryan Fischer, full of throwing and shooting in both directions. Henry tied the match 6-6 with about 20 seconds left, suffered a take-down with nine seconds remaining to fall behind 8-6 and pushed Fischer out of bounds for a point with two seconds on the clock. Henry ran out of time to do anything else and lost 8-7, having come brutally close to extending his season.
'If that match was maybe another 30 or 45 seconds, it might have flipped and flopped back another way,' Windsor coach Rich Carnation said. 'It just didn't happen.'
You can reach staff writer Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.