Mike Collier thought last year’s wrestling season would be tough to beat, as Folsom High’s grapplers placed third at Masters and 19th at the state tournament, the highest places in the school’s long history.
This year the team was even better. Following last week’s second-place finish at Masters, the Bulldogs took 14th at the state tournament over the weekend in Bakersfield. Junior Nick Fiegener became the school’s first state finalist since 1999, placing second in the 160-pound weight class, while sophomore Lorenzo De La Riva placed sixth at 145 pounds. Senior Devon Nooner finished one win away from placing at 170 pounds, while freshman Curtis Booth is the school’s first freshman to ever qualify for the meet.
“The bar keeps getting raised,” Collier said. “The great thing about it is that the kids are already talking about next season and how they feel the team will be even better.”
Fiegener (57-3) capped off a marvelous junior season with his second-place finish. He won his first five matches of the tournament to reach the finals, where he lost to three-time state champion Isaiah Martinez (55-1) of Lemoore by pin in the third period. Despite the loss, Fiegener had a great tournament. He pinned three of his five opponents on his way to the finals and defeated the eventual fourth, fifth and eighth-place finishers.
"He's super-duper strong,” Fiegener said of Martinez. “He's the strongest kid I ever wrestled. He didn't give me any room."
Collier was proud of Fiegener’s performance.
“Reaching the finals on the elevated state with everyone watching was definitely an exciting moment for Nick and for me as his coach,” Collier said. “Unfortunately, Nick was wrestling a phenom in Isaiah Martinez, who is ranked No. 2 in the country. Nick came off the mat saying that he’s the strongest kid he’s ever wrestled. If he gets a hold of your arm or leg, he’s going to score points with it.
“Looking at the big picture, Nick was disappointed with the way he lost, but he was pretty dominant himself throughout the tournament with three pins. He looked really good and the experience of him reaching the finals will be invaluable to him next year. He knows the expectations and it’s a big advantage for him. I told him to remember this moment and use it for motivation for next year and I’m sure he will.”
Fiegener was the school’s highest-placing sophomore last year with a top-12 finish before his teammate this year, De La Riva, placed sixth at 145 pounds. De La Riva won four of his seven matches, losing only to the second- and third-place finisher before dropping his final match to the fifth-place finisher 8-5 to place sixth.
“I was really excited to get that medal,” De La Riva said. “I feel like I did my best. My goal was to place and I’m happy that I did. I’m definitely looking forward to next year and I’m hoping to win it.”
Collier added, “The 145-pound weight class was loaded and I’m proud of the way Lorenzo performed. He’s the first sophomore at Folsom High to earn a medal and he’s got a leg up on Nick in the sense that he’s a state placer heading into his junior season.”
Nooner also had a strong tournament, though he came up a win shy of earning a medal. He won his first two matches before losing 9-7 to the eventual fifth-place finisher. He again won two straight matches in consolations before dropping his final match 12-3 to the eventual third-place finisher.
“I was happy because I did a lot better than last year, but my overall goal was to get a medal and I was disappointed that I didn’t do it,” Nooner said. “At least I can say it took a state placer to beat me. I was in it.”
The loss brought about the end to Nooner wrestling career, but he’ll always remember his days on the mat.
“Wrestling has given me determination, a great work ethic and the tenacity to strive to be the best,” Nooner said. “In wrestling there is always someone better than you and to be better you have to beat them.”
Booth lost both his matches in the tournament by pin, but the experience he gained is invaluable.
“The state tournament is crazy and the caliber of kids there is amazing,” Booth said. “What I learned and what I’ll take away from it is that I’ve got more work to do.”
Lorenzo De La Riva - 50-11
Curtis Booth - 41-10
Devon Nooner - 34-16
Fiegener became Folsom's first state finalist on the boys side since Mauricio Wright in 1999. Folsom does have a state champion on the girls' side, as Tianna Camous won a state title in 2011.
Folsom finished 14th out of 276 teams that were represented and there are more than 1,200 high schools in California. For the high schools that had at least one person competing at state, Folsom finished in the top 5 percent.
All three Folsom wrestlers who won matches either equaled or surpassed their state ranking going into the tournament. Fiegener was ranked No. 2 and proved that status right as he finished second and beat the wrestlers who finished third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth at some point this year. De La Riva went in ranked tenth and knocked off the No. 5 ranked wrestler to get into the medal rounds. Nooner went in ranked No. 17 and knocked off the ninth-ranked wrestler in the first round. He nearly did the same to the seventh-ranked wrestler and eventual fifth-place finisher.
Bill Poindexter contributed to this story.