BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
CLOVIS -- Frontier senior Vincent Gomez didn't get the Doc Buchanan cowboy hat he wanted Saturday night for finishing first, but that's OK: There's only one thing he figures will make his up-and-down high school career a success, anyway.
"I won't be happy with anything less than a state title," said Gomez, minutes after he lost a tight 6-4 decision in the Doc Buchanan Invitational championship at 126 pounds to Judson Preskitt of Wyoming Seminary Prep, a school in Kingston, Pa., that's ranked second nationally by Intermat.
Preskitt was ranked No. 18 nationally at 126 pounds, and he showed why early with a couple of nifty takedowns in the first period for a 4-1 lead. But Gomez wrestled well after that. He trailed 6-3 entering the third period and had a few chances for a takedown that could have changed the match. He settled for a penalty point on Preskitt for stalling and a 6-4 loss.
"He was stalling the match away," Gomez said. "I came into the match talking with my sister (girls national champion Alex Gomez), and I said, 'This match isn't going to come down to who's better; it's going to come down to who makes more mistakes.' And that's what happened to me."
Still, Gomez can come away with the knowledge that he was better than every California wrestler in his bracket, including Clovis' Jonas Gaytan, the state No. 1 whom Gomez beat 5-4 in the semifinals Saturday morning.
"I thought I would beat him worse than I did, but he gave me a really good match," Gomez said. "I feel like I'm off to a great start this year."
That's important to Gomez, whose career began with two Central Section titles in 2010 and 2011 and a sixth-place finish in state as a 119-pound sophomore. But last year, Gomez was suspended for disciplinary reasons and spent most of the school year at Shafter.
He's back now and in good graces -- and wrestling really well. His No. 5 state ranking will improve after his performance here; his only other loss this season was to Porterville's Mason Pengilly, who has since moved to 120 pounds.
"Because I wasn't on the mat last year, this year is twice as important," Gomez said. "I shouldn't have lost either match that I did, but I know the only one that matters is at state."
That's the philosophy, too, at Bakersfield High. The Drillers finished seventh as a team with 66.5 team points, but that won't be considered a success at a school that has taken first, second and second at the past three state tournaments. Specifically, Bakersfield had two No. 2 seeds, seniors Coleman Hammond (145 pounds) and Kyle Pope (182), who lost semifinal matches and eventually settled for fourth place.
"This is the toughest tournament in the state and one of the toughest in the nation, so it gives us a good indicator of what we need to work on," Bakersfield coach Andy Varner said. "On a different weekend, it could be a different result, but this tournament can really magnify your mistakes."
Clovis, the tournament host, won its fourth straight Doc Buchanan, edging Wyoming Seminary 180-178 in the team score when heavyweight Nick Nevills beat Michael Johnson of Wyoming Seminary. The Cougars, ranked No. 15 by Intermat, got an assist when Wyoming Seminary's Eric Morris, the national No. 1 at 182, had to default to Clovis' Adrian Salas in the championship because of a concussion.
The Drillers hope to provide stiffer competition for Clovis by the time section and state tournaments roll around in late February and March. Varner said he was pleased with two wrestlers who reached the semifinals from lower seeds: Hunter Hodges at 160 and Bryce Martin at 170. Both finished sixth, impressive considering that Hodges didn't wrestle in the state tournament last year and Martin did -- but way down at 126 pounds.
"Hunter Hodges did a really good job, beating one of the top kids in the nation (from Wyoming Seminary) in the quarterfinals," Varner said. "And Bryce Martin, that's another great job. He proved he can compete at this higher weight class."
In California wrestling, there's no adjusting for school size, so Wasco gets tossed in with the big boys. And the Tigers held their own, finishing eighth with Sean Medley's third-place finish at 220 pounds the highlight. His only loss came to a Wyoming Seminary wrestler, so like Gomez, Medley can consider himself the top California wrestler in his weight.
"I can only get better from this," Medley said. "It's a tough weekend, a really tough tournament, and it's good experience for state."
Wasco also received fourth-place finishes from Isaiah Hokit at 113 pounds and Garret Johnson at heavyweight, and a sixth place from Josh Hokit at 126.
"It feels pretty good for our school to finish in the top 10 in a tournament like this," Medley said.
Frontier finished 12th, though the Titans were just five points behind Wasco and 8.5 behind Bakersfield. Besides Gomez's silver medal, they got a fourth place from Josh Bailey at 195 and a fifth from Kyle Shepherd at 160.