BY ZACH EWING The Bakersfield Californian email@example.com
Many of the wrestlers who invade Rabobank Arena this weekend for the CIF State Wrestling Championships will have dreams of winning a title.
Few will provide as many details as Wasco senior Sean Medley.
“I’ve had dreams about this since I was 12 years old, watching Jake Varner wrestle,” Medley said of Bakersfield’s Olympic gold medalist, who won two state titles. “I’m in the state finals, the match is tied 2-2, there’s 20 seconds left, and I just get a winning takedown. The whistle blows, and I’m just falling to my knees.
“I’m hoping that’s what I get to do this weekend.”
That’s the other thing about Medley’s dream: It’s pretty realistic. He has carried The California Wrestler’s No. 1 state ranking at 220 pounds through the whole season, and he’ll carry that bull’s-eye squarely on his back into the 40-man bracket Friday.
“Having a target on my back doesn’t bug me because I feel like I’ve earned that spot and worked hard for it,” Medley said. “Every match I go I’ll just wrestle hard, do my best and try to come out on top.”
If he does, it’ll be a victory not just for Medley, who moved to Wasco from Rosemead in the Los Angeles area when he was 9 years old. It’ll also be the first state championship in any sport for the town of Wasco.
“It’d be special for Wasco in general,” Tigers coach Juan Gallardo said. “It would be so great for the town. We would put his name on the wall (in the wrestling room), as a state champion. And other kids would want to be a part of that. It’d be wonderful.”
Gallardo would know. He made the state tournament for Wasco in 1995 and came within one match of reaching the state podium.
“I’ve got to live with that for the rest of my life,” Gallardo said. “I don’t want these kids to feel that way. I want them to get to state and get on that medal stand.”
That’s a barrier Medley has already broken; he took fourth at 220 pounds last year, and all three wrestlers who placed above him were seniors.
“That was my exact thought: ‘I was able to take fourth last year with a bunch of seniors, so why can’t I come back and take it myself?’” Medley said. “I’ve been working for it since then. I can’t wait for all that work I’ve put in to pay off.”
Medley, who’s ranked No. 12 nationally by Intermat, has lost just once this year — to No. 11 Garrett Ryan of Kingston (Pa.)-Wyoming Seminary at the Doc Buchanan Invitational. No other California wrestler is in the top 20 at 220 pounds.
“I like my draw a lot,” Medley said. “There will be tough matches, but I’m ready for them.”
Still, a championship is never a sure thing — there are several wrestlers in the 220-pound bracket whom Medley hasn’t wrestled, like state No. 2 Derrick Jones of Bloomington and No. 4 Victor Raigoza of Orland. But Gallardo considers that to Medley’s advantage.
“I think it’s great he hasn’t wrestled those kids yet,” the coach said. “They don’t know how he wrestles, how hard he pushed, how he does his throws. It’s hard to practice for the way he is, the way he moves.”
Gallardo also said the pressure of big-time matches at state isn’t going to bother Medley.
“He’s such a special kid,” Gallardo said. “As a coach, you can see in some kids’ eyes: They’re up by one (point) and they’ve got to ride the guy out, and they get scared. Sean looks at you like, ‘Hey, it’s not a problem.’ Some kids put pressure on themselves and they crumble. He never had that virus in his body. He rises to the occasion.”
It’s been some rise. Medley started wrestling in Rosemead as a 6-year-old, but he said he wasn’t very good until he realized the winner got the spoils.
“I remember getting my butt kicked and getting up smiling, because I was just there to have some fun,” he said. “Probably my second or third year there I noticed I wasn’t getting my hand raised. I looked at the other kid and said, ‘Hey, how come that isn’t my hand? OK, to do that, I’ve got to win.’”
And so he did. And now he’s got just a few hand-raises to go before he reaches the one that will make his dreams become reality.
“This has taken me a lot of years to get here,” Medley said. “I can’t wait.”