FAIRFIELD — The road to the CIF State Wrestling Championships began Friday, and the highway to Bakersfield is wide open for Rodriguez High.
The Mustangs won 10 individual titles Friday at the Solano County Athletic Conference Championships and qualified all 14 of their wrestlers in their home gym for next week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championships at Benicia High.
In the process, Rodriguez won it’s fifth straight SCAC crown under coach Mike Clarkston, who’s built a lasting tradition for the Mustangs. They’re looking to defend their first-ever D-III title from a year ago.
“It’s nice, but I always say it’s nice,” Clarkston said of winning another title. “It’s kind of come full circle now because the last time we didn’t win it, it was my first year as a head coach. It kind of brings you back home to see the difference . . . where the program has come since the last time we were here (for the SCAC championships).”
The Mustangs easily topped second-place Benicia, rolling up 261 points to the Panthers’ 143. Bethel was third with 137, American Canyon (76) fourth, Vallejo (63) fifth and Vanden (35) sixth.
After the opening 108-pound bout, the Mustangs won four straight championship matches, with Brandon Vu (115), Lathan Liles (122), Carl Posadas (128) and Adam Pain (134) all getting wins. Liles and Pain each won by fall, while Vu won 10-5 and Posadas 7-0.
It was nearly five straight wins for Rodriguez, but a worn out Nick Dikitanan fell 6-4 in overtime to Bethel’s Rashad Brown in their 140-pound final.
Ralph Carios got the Mustangs’ momentum going again with a third-period pin with just 11 seconds remaining after trailing 12-11 late.
Jake Cross then shutout Benicia’s Eli Prompradit 4-0 at 154 pounds and the Mustangs’ Anthony Salazar won the 162-pound championship with an 8-1 decision over the Panthers’ Kenneth Butts.
Rodriguez’s John Massin got in on the winning with a second-period pin of Vallejo’s Jeremiah Guevara at 172 pounds before 184-pounder Henry Medeiros provided the quickest final, pinning Bethel’s Josh Wakefield in just 20 seconds with a hard take down.
“I’ve done that before, but I got in trouble for it because I slammed (my opponent) too hard,” Medeiros said. “It feels good (to get a championship in Rodriguez’s gym). I just do it for the team. It makes me proud for my team.”
The Mustangs had two more chances for conference titles, but 222-pounder Patrick Ferrer and heavyweight Anthony Ishaq both fell in their finals.
Four Vanden wrestlers will continue their season next week in Benicia as Fernando Angulo (122), Matt Qutami (147), Albert Bernalas (154) and Victor Pedraza (222) all finished fourth in their respective weight classes.
Vikings coach Lloyd Wilson knows his team is still rebuilding, but is glad to get some of his kids to the section tournament.
“That was reasonable considering how horrific we’ve been all year at the varsity level,” Wilson said. “We just don’t have the experience, or the mat time, or the personnel (to contend with the fuller teams).”
As for defending their section title from a season ago, Clarkston knows it won’t be easy.
“We have 14 (wrestlers) that should win some matches,” the coach said. “We have quite a few that could punch through (to the SJS Masters tournament). That’s big. But we don’t have as many throw-down guys that are probably going to win it this year like we did last year.
“We need to build up the majors (decisions) when we can and the pins when we can, and put people away. We’re the returning champs so teams are shooting to beat you. We’ve come across that this year. Teams are gunning for us. We just need to prove that we are the best — or one of the best — and make someone really earn it if they are going to knock us out.”
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or email@example.com.