BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
For Sean Medley, the state's No. 1 high school wrestler at 220 pounds, doing anything that involves looking backwards doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
So when he received a scare Friday, nearly getting pinned in the round of 16 at the CIF State Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena, he shook it off, got up and started to dominate.
Now, he's where he figures he should be: In the state semifinals, two matches away from a championship.
"My heart literally just dropped," said Medley, who came back to pin Dante Duke of Placentia-El Dorado in that match. "But the first thing I thought was, 'Get off your back, get off your back, this isn't what you came here to do.' I have a really good gas tank, so I figured, OK, you're down 5-0, but you have a fresh start."
Medley is one of four local wrestlers in the semifinals, joining Wasco teammate Isaiah Hokit and Bakersfield's Coleman Hammond and Bryce Martin. Nine other locals are still alive in the consolation bracket, needing one win to reach the medal stand when the tournament resumes at 9 this morning.
By rankings, Medley has the best chance of any to win a state title. Kern County's other No. 1-ranked wrestler, Frontier senior Vincent Gomez, wasn't so lucky. He fell behind 6-2 against San Fernando's Johnny Parada in the round of 32 and never came back despite nearly turning Parada on his back three times in the third period.
"I was better than that kid; he knows he was lucky," Gomez said. "What saved him was his nosebleed."
Three times, Gomez locked up a cradle in the third period. At least once, he said, he was sure he was about to turn it into a pin. But all three times, Parada's noseplug came out and his nose began to bleed, forcing the referee to stop the match. The last two times, Gomez said, Parada blew it out himself. The final time, there were only 7 seconds left in the match.
Parada, who came in as an unknown wrestler ranked No. 24 in the state, made it through to this morning's semifinals, which begin at 9:30 a.m.
"In this sport, at this tournament, you can't count out anybody that shows up," Frontier coach Kirk Moore said. "You can underestimate somebody, but you can end up sadly mistaken."
Gomez was able to win three matches in the consolation round, including a tight match over state No. 5 Victor Olmos in his last match of the night, and remains in contention for a top-eight medal. He could finish as high as third place; his only career medal was sixth place his freshman season.
"You have to be tough, I think," Gomez said. "To be a real champion, it's all about how you bounce back from a major setback. My goal is to finish third to prove to everybody that I have it in me."
Medley, meanwhile, is betting that nobody else in the 220-pound bracket has as much left as he does. In his quarterfinal against Josh Campos of Garden Grove-Santiago, Medley waited out a tight match early, earned two stalling calls and a takedown in the second period and then pinned Campos with 24 seconds left.
"He was gonna crack, sooner or later," Medley said. "I have a really good motor. I can go 6, 7, 8, 10 minutes. Doesn't matter. I'll go as long as it takes."
Today, Medley faces Mat Boesen of West Torrance in a rematch of a Five Counties Invitational match Medley won in overtime. After that, it could be state No. 2 Derrick Jones of Bloomington.
"We'll just keep going forward, forward, forward," Wasco coach Juan Gallardo said. "That's what we ask from Sean, to push the pace and put a lot of pressure on guys. Most guys can't handle that."
But if Medley needs a reminder that a No. 1 ranking doesn't mean anything once the whistle blows at the state tournament, he only needs to ask an old friend.
"Me and Vince go back to when we were kids," Medley said. "I didn't see his match, but when people started telling me he lost, I just couldn't believe it."
Neither could Gomez or Moore. But the state tournament also waits for no one to feel sorry for himself.
"You've just kind of got to accept it and move on," Moore said. "It's part of this tournament. Crazy things happen all day long."