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Bound for Bakersfield

Four Folsom High wrestlers qualify for state tournament
By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Two highly-ranked wrestlers, an experienced senior and a freshman will represent Folsom High at the state wrestling tournament this weekend in Bakersfield.

The four wrestlers, Nick Fiegener, Lorenzo De La Riva, Devon Nooner and Curtis Booth, qualified for the tournament by placing in the top-seven at last weekend’s Masters Tournament held at Stockton Arena. For Fiegener and Nooner, it’s the second straight year they will be competing in Bakersfield.

By winning Division I titles the previous weekend, Fiegener and De La Riva figured to have the best shot at winning the Masters Tournament and qualifying for the state tournament. That thought followed suit, as Fiegener won the 160-pound weight class, while De La Riva placed second at 145 pounds. Nooner, an experienced senior and Booth, a freshman, fought their way through their respective brackets to place fourth, Nooner at 170 pounds and Booth at 106.

Folsom had five other wrestlers compete (Carlos Alvarez, Andrew Coyne, Jason Bergquist, Mason Koshiyama and Connor Watson) and while they didn’t qualify, they all finished in the top-half of their bracket and helped the Bulldogs finish second to Vacaville in the team scoring, the highest Folsom has ever finished in the tournament.

“This year’s group finished second out of the143 teams in the section, only behind Vacaville, who cruised to another section title,” Folsom coach Mike Collier said. “This is remarkable considering that going into the tournament we only had nine qualifiers, behind Vacaville and Oakdale, who both qualified all 14 weights, Bella Vista that had 12 and Oak Ridge, Ponderosa, Calaveras and Del Oro all brought more qualifiers with 10.  What was great about the runner-up finish is that it took all nine wrestlers stepping up and winning matches to get it done. Every wrestler we brought won at least a couple of matches and finished in the top-16 for their respective weight class. The kids proved that they are peaking at the right time, and we hope to carry the momentum from this weekend into next week's state meet.”

Fiegener won his first three matches by pin or technical fall before facing Bella Vista’s Sam Fowler in the semifinals. Fowler wrestled Fiegener tough, as the match was tied at four after two periods, but Fiegener earned a pin in the third period to advance to the finals to face Ray Lomas of Central Catholic. Lomas is a defending Masters champion and placed fifth in the state last year. Fiegener is ranked second in the state and Lomas is ranked third and the wrestlers didn’t disappoint. They battled to the end of regulation with the score tied at one before Fiegener earned a takedown in overtime and won 3-1.

“He’s a strong kid and a state placer so I was excited to wrestle him,” Fiegener said. “I knew it would be tough to beat him. He was pushing in most of the match and I just let him tire himself out. In overtime, I took him down with a low double.”

De La Riva also reached the finals, but had some close matches as well. He earned a come-from-behind win over Del Oro’s Johnny Zieour in the second round and then dominated El Camino’s Mike Kintz in the semis, 14-3.

“I wasn’t feeling that well and my head wasn’t into that match (against Zieour),” De La Riva said. “I was down by three going into the third period and I was kind of worried that I might not win, but on a scramble I got an escape and then quickly took a shot and got a near fall to win the match with 10 seconds left. I thought I wrestled well throughout the tournament, though. A lot of people thought I’d lose in the semis to Kintz of El Camino, but I teched him.”

Collier added, “When Lorenzo gets on a roll, he can pile up points in bunches and that is exactly what he did in the semis.”

In the finals, De La Riva suffered a hard-fought 2-1 loss to Vacaville’s Hayden Fry.

“I just got sloppy on top and he got a reversal on me,” said De La Riva, who lost to Fry at the section duals by the same score. “I just have to clean up those little things. I wasn’t upset that I lost, more frustrated. I wanted to beat him, but I didn’t.”

Booth had a tough road to qualifying, as he lost his second match to eventual champ Gionn Peralta of Vacaville. In the consolation bracket, Booth won five straight matches before losing the third-place bout to Oakdale’s Nico Colunga.

“Once I was in consolations, I knew I had to win matches one by one,” Booth said. “I knew I could do it; I just had to make sure I was doing the right things.”

“Curtis had to get by Benicia's Christian Ramos, who was ahead of him in both the section and state rankings,” Collier said. “After a close couple of rounds, Booth was able to pin Ramos to punch his ticket to the state meet.”

Booth added, “I thought it would be pretty hard to qualify for the state tournament. My original goal was to qualify for Masters, so I’m pretty happy. Every state qualifier gets a “Collier hug” so I was happy to get that.”

Nooner reached the semifinals with three straight wins, a pair of pins and a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Del Oro’s Dylan Kainrath, who he also defeated in double overtime in the consolation bracket, 2-1. By pinning Peter Cardinale of Rio Americano to reach the semis, Nooner not only wrapped up a berth to the state tournament, but also got a hug from his coach.

“After winning that match, the only thing I could think of was getting that hug,” Nooner said. “Coach gives hugs to the guys going to the state tournament and I knew I wanted one.

“I was quite confident that I could make it to the state tournament,” Nooner continued. “I’m peaking at the right time and I think that’s an advantage I have against my opponents.”

Collier added, “Devon has proven the last two years that he peaks at the right time. It takes him a little while to get into wrestling shape when he is coming off of a long football season, but once his conditioning gets up to speed, he can go with anyone.”

Alvarez just missed qualifying for the state tournament, as he placed eighth at 113 pounds. Alvarez won his first two matches before a loss dropped him to the consolation bracket. He won his first match, but then dropped two in a row to place eighth. He lost the match to qualify, 11-5, to Oakdale’s Trevor Williams.

“Carlos wrestled all year at 106, but went up to 113 for the postseason when Curtis went down to 106,” Collier said. “Alvarez was giving up a lot of weight to his opponents, some coming down from the 120-pound weight class. Fortunately, Carlos was used to this from last year when he weighed 95 pounds and wrestled 106. He did a fantastic job for going up a weight class and still got a section medal.” 

Mason Koshiyama and Connor Watson also made it to the second day of the tournament, but just missed out on medals. Koshiyama (138) lost to eventual runner-up Kent McCoy of Enochs, 10-7, before winning two matches by pin in the consolation round. In the match to put him in the top-eight, Koshiyama was caught and pinned by Oak Ridge’s Brandon Claiborne midway through the third period.

“These two had split two matches apiece on the year with Mason winning the last two meetings in the finals of league and divisionals,” Collier said. “This time, the match went Claiborne's way and Koshiyama finished in the top-12 and one match from the medals for the second year in a row. It was unfortunate, because they probably should have been meeting up later in the tourney, but sometimes the bracket works against you and that was the case here. It was obviously a disappointment, as Mason had a fantastic season and it was hard to watch him come just short of his goal. I thought 138 was the toughest weight class in the tournament, and we knew there would be a few good wrestlers not making it to state. Mason happened to be one of them.”

Watson (152) also had a disappointing ouster to the tournament. In a match that determined the medalists, Watson led by one point with 10 seconds remaining, but was called for stalling and the match went to overtime. Watson nearly had the takedown in overtime, but got taken down himself and lost the match.

“Connor had a great season and came just short of getting to state,” Collier said.

Andrew Coyne (120) and Jason Bergquist (132) were an overtime loss away from making it to the second day of the tournament. Coyne lost his first match, but then won two straight in consolations before losing in overtime 9-6. Bergquist started off the tournament with a big pin over Division II Section Champion Ray Biaz of Casa Roble. Bergquist was trailing 10-2 before pinning Biaz. After losing his next match, Bergquist  pinned his next opponent before losing 8-6 in overtime.

“Andrew really improved as the season went on, and will come back strong for his senior year to try and get to state,” Collier said. “It was a great tournament for all of our wrestlers and finishing as the second-best team in our whole section was a great accomplishment. We look ahead to the state tournament, which is goal of every high school wrestler, and we hope to get some wrestlers on the podium. Last year, we were 19th in CA for all divisions, so we will see if we can beat that record also.”