2023 CIF (CA) State Championships - ARCHIVE ONLY

The Complete and Total California High School Championship Preview

The Complete and Total California High School Championship Preview

The complete and total California State High School Wrestling Championship Preview.

Feb 22, 2023 by FloWrestling Staff
The Complete and Total California High School Championship Preview

By Jesse Smith

2023 CIF Boys State Finals Brackets are on FloArena here.

State Finals Schedule is here.

With the tournament getting underway on Thursday, Feb 23rd, here’s a look at the top storylines, and a deeper dive into the weights, with top 12 seeds, 3 names to watch, and final predictions.

Top Storylines

132 Remains Main Event

Aden Valencia and Daniel Zepeda have taken turns getting the better of each other. The most recent result was a 1-0 decision for Valencia in the Central Coast finals. If I had my say, this is how Saturday night ends.

CA 4 Timer Clock Reset

With no freshmen champions last year, there is no one on pace to pick up 4 state titles. To date, there are 4 wrestlers to achieve this ever-coveted goal. Darrell Vazquez (Bakersfield), Justin Mejia (Clovis), Seth Nevills (Clovis), and Jesse Vasquez (Multiple – most recently Excelsior). Vasquez graduated in 2020, so it’ll be at least until 2026 that another name is added to this list. 

This year the top candidates to start this clock are: (106) Rocklin Zinkin, Thunder Lewis; (113) CJ Huerta; (120) Nate Carrillo; (126) Joseph Toscano; (160) Travis Grace; (195) Coby Merrill

4 Teams Bring All 14

Bakersfield, Buchanan, Clovis, and Poway will all bring their entire starting lineup to the state tournament. With teams trying to catch Buchanan in the team race, it makes it awfully hard if they’re scoring points at every weight.

Bakersfield is the surprise of this group. Not that they haven’t been building a strong program but just that the other 3 are perennial state powers. The future looks bright for the Drillers.

As for the team race overall, that figures to be between Buchanan and Poway. Clovis will be within striking distance all weekend but will need a few upsets to go their way. Even with the full team, Bakersfield is more likely to be in a battle with St John Bosco, Gilroy, and Palm Desert for top 3-5.

Palm Desert’s Trio

Not only has the Palm Desert program as a whole come a long way in these last 5+ years, as evidenced by 10 state qualifiers. They also bring 3 of the biggest favorites, Brock and Beau Mantanona and Daniel “Peanut” Herrera. If they do get 3 state champions, that could lead the way in the state.

Not bad for a school 90 miles east of Los Angeles under the desert sun.

Senior’s Chasing 1st Gold

With one last chance at that CA state title, here’s the list of seniors most likely in the running:

106: Scotty Moore

120: Ray Harris

138: Dario Lemus

152: Beau Mantanona

170: Luke Condon

170: Sloan Swan

182: Tye Monteiro

182: TJ McDonnell

195: Mark Ayala

195: Keanu Trelles

220: Kannon Campbell

285: Zach Limon

And now the weights:


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#14 Rocklin Zinkin9Buchanan
2Abram Cline11Granite Hills
3Thunder Lewis9Clovis
4Paulo Valdez10Hesperia
5Siraj Sidhu9Del Oro
6Clarence “Scotty” Moore12Branham6th (106) *2020
7Sean Willcox9St John Bosco
8Anthony Castillo10Central
9Jeremy Oani12Righetti
10Elijah Valencia10Merced
11Zach Hoover10Laguna Creek
12Dominic Bozanic9Gilroy

This season at 106 has sort been a battle between the top three, and then even more concentrated to the current #1 and #3 in the state. Zinkin, Cline, and Lewis have all wrestled each other at least once.

In the case of Zinkin, he has wrestled the other two multiple times, 2 against Cline and 4 against Lewis. He comes in with a 5-1 combined record against them. The loss was to Lewis at Valleys (Central Division 1) which he avenged this past weekend with a major decision. The Cline matches have been close, but they still do favor Rocklin pretty decisively.

Both Cline and Lewis have had championship-worthy seasons and come into Bakersfield as legit contenders to the top of the podium. Lewis will have to dig back into that bag of tricks he used to take out Zinkin two weeks ago. That match showed what he can do at his best and that the season-long stranglehold Zinkin has had on this weight class can be loosened.

Cline has only taken two losses on the season, both to Zinkin. He picked up a nice out of state win over Bergen Catholic’s Nate Braun. He’s dominated his San Diego Section competition. The one last dragon to slay is that familiar Buchanan foe.

As for Cline vs Lewis head-to-head, that went to the elder Cline to the tune of 3-2 at Doc B. So a possible rematch between them we would expect to be just as good.

Paulo Valdez is sort of the forgotten man in this field. He’s the top dog from the Southern Section, but with Hesperia not traveling up to Doc B, he doesn’t have the number of matches against the top 3 that the others do. He did get Cline at Sonora TOC where he fell 7-6 and ultimately took 3rd.

So just as a rematch between Cline and Lewis would be good, one between Valdez and Cline could be spectacular. You can’t call a top 4 kid a sleeper, but considering the lack of familiarity the rest of the field has with him, he is the wildcard up at the top.

Siraj Sidhu worked his way into the state’s top 5 with wins over Willcox, Castillo, and Elijah Almarinez of Vacaville. He has close losses to Cline and Lewis. He’s absolutely a threat to get hot at the right time and a couple results this way or that way and he’s in the finals.

Scotty Moore deserves mention as the only returning state placer (6th) at the weight. He hasn’t seen action for the majority of the regular season. Looking better than ever, he was the Central Coast Section champion and could be the one who really shakes this all up.

Sean Willcox is another in a line of Bosco elite freshmen who certainly has the makings of a state champion some day – perhaps this weekend is the day, so to speak. He’s been busy as SJB goes everywhere. 

Jeremy Oani doesn’t really have the big wins you’d like to see but the senior has been hovering around the state top 10 for his entire career. On the brink of placing, maybe this is the year.

Zach Hoover is an interesting one. Laguna Creek really doesn’t get around much. He was able to win Mid Cals with a win over Bozanic. He also just finished 3rd in the Sac-Joaq Section behind Sidhu and Valencia.

3 to watch:

  • Erik Ramirez (Palm Desert)
  • David Benavides (Bakersfield)
  • Camilo Ramirez (Walnut)

Benavides is a freshman who might be riding high with the Drillers qualifying all 14 wrestlers. That’s team momentum. Erik Ramirez is part of the surging Palm Desert team that is always dangerous in the biggest moments. They face each other in round one. Camilo Ramirez is a junior who has taken some lumps this year but his older brother is a CA state champion and his younger brother is a runner up respectively. Maybe he makes a run of his own. He gets 5 seed Sidhu in what could be an upset alert type of situation.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Rocklin Zinkin 
  2. Abram Cline
  3. Scotty Moore
  4. Paulo Valdez 
  5. Thunder Lewis
  6. Carlos Melgoza 
  7. Sean Willcox 
  8. Siraj Sidhu


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1Ronnie Ramirez10Walnut2nd (106)
2CJ Huerta9Buchanan
3Antonio Rodriguez9Los Gatos
4Edwin Sierra10Poway4th (106)
5Hayden Ancheta12Monta Vista
6Kekoa Madayag12Novato7th (106)
7Anthony Lucio11Fountain Valley
8Aaron Silva9Calvary Chapel
9Caleb Rivas10Golden West
10Jadyn Wren9Clovis

We can’t start talking about 113 without first mentioning the absence of Gilroy’s Moses Mendoza. He carries a top 10 ranking nationally and would certainly be a favorite to reach the finals and, in a field where the top 4 is still elite, would have made this perhaps the single best weight to watch unfold. 

Of those who remain, Ramirez is only a sophomore yet one of the veterans as it were. He was a runner up at 106 last season and entered as the top kid in the state. He comes to Bakersfield still in that position. He suffered a rather surprising loss at Doc B but has been on a tear since then, including a win over Sierra.

His biggest threats appear to be two super freshmen. I have Huerta as the 2, but Rodriguez is every bit his equal. If that’s the semifinals, we’re in for a treat there. Rodriguez only losses on the year were to Ramirez and Mendoza. Huerta has 3 losses but all came at 120 or 126, and to top 3 kids there. He hasn’t lost since moving down to 113. Like I say, something has to give between these two. 

Sierra is a sophomore coming off a 4th place finish at 106 last season. He comes to Bakersfield battle-tested to say the least. Poway traveled to the HOF Duals and that meant Sierra got Beric Jordan and Jayden James. That’s two in the national top 20, with Jordan being 2nd in the country. He’s also seen Mendoza, Ramirez, Rodriguez, and Huerta. While he didn’t win any of them, all but Mendoza were close, and shows he’s right on the cusp.

Ancheta and Madayag are two seniors who will be looking to close out their careers on a high note. They’re slated to both earn medals but they feel the heat from – the kitchen? – no, from a couple of freshmen poised to make a run.

Those freshmen are Jadyn Wren and Aaron Silva. They’ve split their season series 1-1 and the rubber match, if it happens, should produce some fireworks. For the season to date, it’s hard to say they’re definite title contenders but it’s easy to say they are heavily in the mix for top 5 and as freshmen you just never know when that next level kicks in. Silva in particular is part of a Calvary Chapel program that has been peaking at the right time.

Caleb Rivas seems to have made one of the biggest jumps through the post season run. He was ranked outside the top 20 and gets seeded inside the top 10. That’s what happens when you finish 2nd in the Central Section I suppose.

3 to watch:

  • Dominic Marquez (11) (Paso Robles)
  • Octavio Negrete (11) (Elk Grove)
  • Jacob Estrada (10) (Monache)

These three will be put to the test real fast. Estrada gets Ronnie, Negrete gets Rodriguez, and Marquez gets Sierra in the 2nd round. That’s 1, 3, and 4. Could there be an upset in that mix? We shall see.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Ronnie Ramirez
  2. CJ Huerta
  3. Antonio Rodriguez
  4. Edwin Sierra
  5. Aaron Silva
  6. Hayden Ancheta
  7. Mason Carrillo
  8. Kekoa Madayag


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#11 Isaiah Cortez10Gilroy3rd (106)
2Nikade Zinkin10Clovis5th (106)
3Isaiah Quintero11El Dorado1st (106)
4Ray Harris12Buchanan4th (113)
5Jacob Jones12Rancho Bernardo
6Nate Carrillo9St John Bosco
7Billy Townson10Poway
8Jax Taber12Palm Desert
9Ezequiel Vela11Oakdale
10Tommy Holguin10Sobrato
11Leo Maestas10Clovis West
12Leo Macias10Kingsburg

This weight is what you call fire. You have last year’s state champion at 106. Down at 3rd. That’s Quintero. But he’s currently 3rd because he suffered a loss to Zinkin at Doc B. His only of the season. His only loss last season came against the same Zinkin.

Meanwhile, Cortez, who finished 3rd last year, is ahead of Zinkin, who finished 5th, by way of a win in the Doc B finals. That loss and Joseph Toscano who is up at 126, are Zinkin’s only defeats. And we can’t forget that in winning last year’s state title, Quintero beat Cortez.

Basically, it could just be a matter of which of these two pair up first, and then how the third stacks up against that winner. And right now that looks like Zinkin vs Quintero in the semifinals.  

Ray Harris and Jacob Jones are a pair of seniors with eyes on the prize. Harris was a top 4 medalist last year, looking to make one last run to the top. Buchanan and Clovis see each other at more events than my calculator can count but so far that hasn’t worked out in Harris favor. He’s yet to beat Zinkin in 4 tries. Here, they’re on opposite sides, so a clear path to the quarterfinals is there for him.

That’s where he’s likely to see Jacob Jones, who is looking for his first state medal and appears to be in line for it. He does have one match against Quintero this year, a 3-1 defeat. It is possible, that these two, Harris and Jones, run into each other in the quarterfinals and again in consolations.

Right behind them comes freshman phenom Nate Carrillo. Remember at 106 I mentioned a lineage of talented youngsters for the Bosco Braves? Carrillo is another one. And among those SJB freshmen, probably the biggest threat to take home the crown. He’s set up for a quarterfinals match with Quintero which should be considered must see TV. 

Billy Townson appears locked into his place ahead of the group he’s beat and behind the group he’s lost to. But his schedule has been littered with the top contenders here and the combined score of the 4 losses was 11-4, including two 1-0 decisions to Carrillo and Harris.

Vela makes a big jump here as the Sac-Joaq champ. He has losses to Harris and Townson but Townson in particular was 5-2. Not bad. He went 2-2 at Doc B.

Taber is a senior making his 1st state finals appearance. He’s right on the cusp of the top 8 and will get Vela for the chance to take on top seed Cortez in the quarterfinals.

I’m saying Tommy Holguin is a threat to Townson and Nikade on that bottom side of the bracket. I'll just leave it at that.

3 to watch:

  • Micah Viloria (11) (Merrill West)
  • Abraham Granados (12) (Merced)
  • Aidan Munoz (12) (Temecula Valley)

For someone on the cusp of the top 20, Granados has a nice mix of quality wins and competitive losses. Viloria comes into the weekend as a relatively unknown commodity against the field. Temecula Valley seems to always have a guy step up big here, Munoz could be that guy.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Isaiah Cortez
  2. Nikade Zinkin
  3. Nate Carrillo
  4. Isaiah Quintero
  5. Ray Harris
  6. Jacob Jones
  7. Tommy Holguin
  8. Billy Townson


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1Elijah Cortez10Gilroy3rd (113)
2Elias Navida11Poway6th (113)
3#11 Joseph Toscano9Buchanan
4Bryce Luna11St Francis4th (120)
5Richard Murillo11Canyon Springs2nd (120)
6Aiden Simmons10Bakersfield
7Alek VanBebber11Kingsburg
8Ryan Lobato12Lakeside
9Jayson Suetos11Granite Hills
10Alek VanBebber11Kingsburg
11Isaac Herrera12Del Oro
12Victor Gutierrez9Central Catholic

Don’t be fooled by Toscano being the only nationally ranked kid in this field. That really means Elijah Cortez might be the most slept on kid in the country. Gilroy has four pairs of siblings up near the top of their weight classes. Moses Mendoza and Daniel Zepeda. Coby and Cody Merrill. Travis and Tammy Grace. Elijah and Isaiah Cortez. With Mendoza and Cody out, that leaves the Cortez and Grace duos as the chances to bring 1st place medals back to the same household. And it could certainly be done. 

Cortez – who finished 3rd at 113 last season – hasn’t seen Toscano yet but does have a 7-0 victory over Navida as well as other solid wins. His loss is to Luna, but they split the season series. Cortez won 8-0 then lost 5-3. They’re slated for a semifinals rubber match.

As for Toscano, the freshman has losses to Murillo and Navida, but I still believe at his best, he’s the top in the state. The loss to Navida was particularly close. A 3-2 decision where Navida was able to get an escape right as time ran out.

Navida comes in ranked 2nd in the state and has wins over Toscano and Jacob Perez of Monache. He also has a season split with Luna. He took the most recent match between them 1-0. His loss to Cortez was 7-0 but way back at Reno TOC. A lot has happened since then. He finished 6th last year and appears to be a shoe-in to climb higher than that this time.

Luna and Murillo are both returning state placers at 120. Luna finished 4th and Murillo came in 2nd. They didn’t face each other last year but did both lose to eventual champion Ethan Perryman. This season, they have one match between them, a 7-3 win for Luna in the 3rd place match at Temecula Valley. They’re set up for a fire quarterfinals, and either one could be in the finals Saturday night.

I believe after that top 5, there is some separation. No one outside the top 5 has a win against any of that group. Aiden Simmons has 5 losses to Toscano, Luna, and Murillo. But they were all by decision, most recently 3-0 to Toscano in the Section finals. Simmons also managed a 7-3 win over VanBebber in the semifinals.

The next 4, Hernandez, Lobato, Suetos, and VanBebber are basically a coin flip to me. Lobato just beat Hernandez in the section finals. 4-3 UTB. Doesn’t get any closer than that.

I’ll quickly add VA Gutierrez as someone to watch as the weekend progresses. He’s a freshman with experience against Simmons and VanBebber. Close losses to date that could go the other way.

3 to watch:

  • Jeff Lopez (10) (Clovis West)
  • Bryce Gonzales (10) (Norco)
  • Ryan Espiritu (10) (Benicia)

Jeff Lopez just finished 4th in the section with close losses to Toscano and VenBebber. He gets Lobato in the opening round. That’s actually a tough draw for the 8 seed. Gonzales just finished 3rd in the “blue” bracket of the Southern Section Masters. Outpacing Gavin Laverde and Jacob Bell who sit a good 15-20 spots above him. He’s slated to face Cortez in round 2. Espiritu is going to challenge someone in that top 12. Look like that might be Luna.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Joseph Toscano
  2. Elijah Cortez
  3. Elias Navida
  4. Richard Murillo
  5. Bryce Luna
  6. Aiden Simmons
  7. Alek VanBebber
  8. Ryan Lobato


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#11  Aden Valencia11Sobrato3rd (126)
2#10 Daniel Zepeda10Gilroy
3Gavin Bauder11Clovis North
4Jacob Perez10Monache
5Mario Sandoval12Northview
6Christian Herrera11Bakersfield
7Josh Hannan12Arcata
8Malikhi Espiritu12Temecula Valley
9Brandon Eusebio12Rancho Bernardo
10Cisco Cabrera11Buchanan6th (120)
11Jalen Concepcion10Poway
12Elijah Flores12Walnut

So, I will go on the record and say that Zepeda vs Valencia is the single most anticipated finals match up of the 14 weights. They’ve wrestled on the mat 3 times. Valencia currently holds the 2-1 advantage. The biggest win between them was an 8-0 win for Valencia in the CCS Southern Division finals. This past weekend, he won 1-0. Zepeda beat him in the Doc B semis.

Valencia made some of the biggest news in the state, when he won the Reno TOC college 133 bracket that included a win over NCAA All-American Rayvon Foley. 

3, 4, and 5 are really close here. 

Gavin Bauder has been the best all season from the Central Section. He has a close loss to Zepeda and wins over everyone of note behind him except Sandoval. It’s really a coin flip between those two.

Jacob Perez was down at 126 for the majority of the season and someone I pegged as a potential high riser. Then he beat Richard Murillo at Temecula and proved me right. He was dinged up in that one and I believe hasn’t been 100% since. That’s unfortunate as he looks to knock off one of the top two and make my main event obsolete.

Sandoval’s only loss was to Dario Lemus up a weight class. He just won the Southern Section blue division. Wouldn’t surprised at all with a top 3 finish. Again, these three are basically coin flips.

Much like the previous three, Herrera, Cabrera, and Hannan are very close as well and close to being able to upend one of those higher ranked guys. Herrera has enough quality wins, including two over Cisco, to place him at the top of the trio.

Cabrera and Hannan have traded pins against each other. That means whatever the result, if they toe the line against each other again, watch it. Hannan also has a head to head over Espiritu.

Eusebio makes a slight move up after the first place finish in the San Diego Section.

Not mentioned here, Slava Shahbazyan is a freshman with the only win (Cabrera) against a top 8 kid from outside that group.

3 to watch:

  • Ben Wimberly (12) (San Clemente)
  • Vicente Rodarte (11) (Benicia)
  • Alias Raby (9) (West Valley)

Wimberly finished top 4 in the Southern Section with a close loss to Sandoval in the Blue finals. He beat Shahbazyan in the semifinals. Rodarte took a close loss to Hannan in the section finals. Raby was the section champ and has an older brother who placed in CA a few years ago. Could be a real wild card.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Aden Valencia
  2. Daniel Zepeda
  3. Gavin Bauder
  4. Mario Sandoval
  5. Jacob Perez
  6. Josh Hannan
  7. Christian Herrera
  8. Roberto Lopez


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#4 Brock Mantanona11Palm Desert1st (126)
2#13 Dario Lemus12Clovis2nd (132)
3#14 Grigor Cholakyan11St John Bosco5th (126)
4Paul Kelly11Poway7th (126)
5Reggie Raiz11Buchanan
6Moses Mirabal11Gilroy
7Justin Wells12Lakeside
8Hercules Windrath11Fountain Valley
9Ryder Yoshitake11San Marino
10Kenneth Rogers12Esperanza
11Michael Folch12Calvary Chapel
12Anthony Vargas10Central

This seems to be a weight with a clear hierarchy. Brock is the heavy favorite to come away with a 2nd state title. He has a fairly convincing win over Lemus and then everyone else he’s wrestled this season. 

Then there’s Lemus who holds a 16-7 major decision over Cholakyan. And then wins over everyone else but Brock. He’s solidly in that 2nd spot.

Cholakyan likewise has beat everyone in his path, except Lemus. He’s 3rd by a clear margin.

After those three then it’s Kelly by way of a head to head over Raiz and a sole loss to Cholakyan. 

Then Raiz comes in right after Kelly with losses only to the 4 ahead of him and wins over everyone else, including both Priests from Bakersfield. 

And finally, Mirabal, with wins over Wells, Yoshitake, Damian Montoya, and Matt Luna slots right in at #6.

After that, it’s sort of a take your pick. Consistency vs recent momentum. Experience vs youth. It’s really whatever you favor over the other. I like what I’ve seen out of Yoshitake all season. He gave Brock his closest in-state battle. He has a recent win over Folch.

Wells just beat Windrath in the Masters semis so he gets the slight nod there. 

Folch just suffered losses to both Yoshitake and Rodgers in the Southern Section “blue” bracket. Yoshitake finished 2nd and had a more consistent season so he gets the slight nod over Rodgers, who finished 3rd. 

Vargas is coming off a 3rd place Central Section finish but that did include a tech fall defeat to Raiz. 

3 to watch:

  • Devon Wells (11) (Granite Hills)
  • Atri Feizi (12) (De La Salle)
  • Isaiah Bertalotto (11) (Turlock)

Wells just took 2nd in San Diego, avenging a loss in the league finals to Jack Harrison. Feizi was the North Coast champion. He has yet to lose in-state this season. Though hasn’t had the toughest CA schedule. We’ll see what that means. I don’t know how you value this but Bertalotto just pinned his way through the section finals. 

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Brock Mantanona
  2. Dario Lemus
  3. Grigor Cholakyan
  4. Reggie Raiz
  5. Moses Mirabal
  6. Paul Kelly
  7. Matt Luna
  8. Ryder Yoshitake


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#10 Laird Root11Poway3rd (152)
2Miguel Estrada11Frontier1st (145)
3#1 EJ Parco11Los Gatos5th (138)
4Devin Alexander12Buchanan
5#19 Beau Priest10Bakersfield
6Andrew Barbosa11Palm Desert
7Thomas Thongseng11Exeter8th (138)
8Joseph Antonio10St John Bosco
9Anthony Berg11Whitney
10Evan Manzo11Etiwanda
11Colton Silva12Oakdale
12Ammar Khan12Franklin

This weight is pretty crazy, both nationally and in the state of CA. There was a time when Beau Mantanona was down here as well. That made for the national 1, 2, and 3 all from CA. Now he’s at 152 and so is Maxx Martinez. But that doesn’t leave the cupboard bare, in fact, it’s still perhaps the toughest weight out here. 

EJ Parco comes in as the Flo top rated 145 in the country. Root is top 10 at 152. Beau Priest is in the top 20 at 145. And the returning state champion, Estrada, is nowhere to be found. Well, he’s the one I have winning this thing.

Estrada didn’t start the season on time for whatever reason and that might be why the national media – yours truly notwithstanding – had forgotten him. He got things kicked into high gear at Temecula where he ultimately fell to Root in the 152 finals 4-3. That result notwithstanding, I give the benefit of the doubt to the state champ. He comes in with the Central Section title.

Parco could honestly be sitting at the top here. He hasn’t lost yet. He’s got some good wins under his belt. His older brother is doing work for the Sun Devils after winning a CA state title his senior season. He finished 5th at 138 last year, figures to improve on that.

I’m sure the Root clan and the Poway faithful think I’ve lost my marbles. He beat Estrada. And that’s fair. But it’s also just my opinion, and one single head to head doesn’t always determine who wins the next time. Root does deserve the 1 seed though. On the season, his only loss was to Collin Guffey up at 152. 

I think 4, 5, 6, and 7 can all be interchanged at this point.

Alexander has losses to Priest, Root, and Estrada. Though he was able to get Priest back later in the season. He comes to Bakersfield with a Central Section 2nd place finish. He also has a head to head decision over Barbosa. That gives him the slight edge here.

Beau Priest climbed into national rankings by way of a very strong runner up finish at Doc B. That finals loss was to Parco. Otherwise, he has a 1-1 series split with Alexander and wins over Antonio and Silva.

Barbosa has been consistently in the top 20 or on the fringe of it. At Doc B he suffered to out of state losses and then 1-0 defeat to Alexander in the match for 5th. That is still his only loss in the state all season.  

Thongseng is following up an 8th place finish as a sophomore with another impressive season. I have him at 7th but he could end up the highest of this group for sure.

Antonio is one of the younger guys here along with Priest. That could mean he does similar to last season where he went 3-2 here in Bakersfield. Or it could mean he’s rounding into another level. He did take first in the gold 145 bracket of the Southern Section.

Every year there’s guys from far up north, off the radar who reach the podium. This looks like a weight with some strong candidates for that this season – perhaps Anthony Berg being the strongest.

3 to watch:

  • Max Delbosque (10) (Clovis North)
  • Gavin Smith (12) (Chico)
  • Mikel David Uyemara (9) (San Marino)

Delbosque has had a season running the Central Section gauntlet and has the blemishes to show for it. But that also means he shouldn’t be out of the running against Colton Silva to open things up. Gavin Smith is pretty much the quintessential dark horse. Very close matches against some of the top guys. Relatively unknown way up yonder. The sort of freshman who could bust up the top 12. He gets Ammar Khan to start things off, and I’m calling for the win. Uyemara could have had a better draw, he gets Estrada first.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Miguel Estrada
  2. EJ Parco
  3. Laird Root
  4. Devin Alexander
  5. Andrew Barbosa
  6. Thomas Thongseng
  7. Beau Priest
  8. Max Wise


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#1 Beau Mantanona12Palm Desert2nd (138)
2#11 Collin Guffey11Poway5th (132)
3#2 Maxx Martinez11Gilroy3rd (120)
4Leo Contino10Buchanan8th (126)
5Gavin Fernandez12De La Salle4th (152)
6Coen Quintana12Dinuba
7Jacob Salcedo12Northview
8Brokton Borelli10Los Banos
9Brian Leon11Roosevelt
10Arjun Nagra11Vacaville
11Kris Arrey12Riverside Poly
12Brodie Johnson10Oakdale

For my money, which let’s face it, isn’t a whole lot, Beau Mantanona is the best wrestler in the state. At least as we sit here today. It’s crazy to think he has yet to win a state title but that’s the way things go sometimes. And last year they went by way of the most controversial ending to the season. The disappointment of last year’s finals aside, he appears to be an unstoppable force. His older brother, Anthony, now graduated from Oklahoma and back on the PD coaching staff, had a similarly dominant senior season. We always keep an understanding that anything can happen out here, but there’s no one who could say he isn’t the biggest favorite in the state with a straight face. 

Looking for the chance to knock Beau off and shock the CA wrestling world, Collin Guffey finished 5th last year at 132 and has had a state championship level season in any other year. He split the season series with Laird Root and took 2nd at Doc B, losing to Beau in the finals. He comes in as the San Diego Section champion.

Maxx Martinez has had a heck of a high school ride. I believe he’s had as much national acclaim as just about anyone in the state, since before high school even. He’s been at pretty much every weight between 113 and 152. You see last year he was at 120 here in Bakersfield where he took 3rd. The potential semifinals with Guffey will be stellar. 

Leo Contino is part of the new wave of Buchanan standouts. They don’t rebuild, they reload. Guys like Contino are part of what make that true. Only a sophomore, he figures to improve upon last year’s 8th place finish as he is squarely in the state’s top 5 at 152. Set up to meet Fernandez in the quarterfinals, that could be a great one. Contino got the better of him in a 4-2 OT decision.

Fernandez is just another in a long line of tough De La Salle kids. I always think of them with Temecula Valley in the Southern Section. Always a handful of state qualifiers, sometimes a truly elite kid, and always some tough outs. Fernandez fits that mold losing only to Root and Contino in-state by a combined 10-5.

You see the name Quintana in the Central Section, you’re in for a dog fight. Coen finished 2nd in the section. Like Fernandez his only losses have come to Root and Contino. As the 6 seed, he’s slated to face Maxx in the quarterfinals. That has classic written all over it.

Salcedo and Nagra come into the weekend off of very similar seasons. Both placed at Zinkin. Salcedo was at 5 Counties while Nagra was at Temecula Valley. Salcedo took 1st while Nagra finished 4th in the much tougher bracket of the two. Estrada, Root, Guffey. 152 Battle for the Belt was a monster. This is a great round of 16 showdown.

Sandwiched between them is Brokton Borelli. Talk about a heat-seeking missile. He’s competing a bit off-the-radar up in the Sac-Joaq Section. He comes in as the champion there, with wins over Brodie Johnson and Nagra. He’s likely to fall to the consolations in the quarterfinals but he’ll be in position to medal on the back end.

3 to watch:

  • Noah Elliott (12) (Birmingham)
  • Henry Baalman (12) (Dublin)
  • JoJo Andrade (12) (Palma)

Elliott has a key win over Salcedo. A few close losses to other top guys. Baalman has been competitive in matches against the top of the class, yet to get that breakthrough win. Andrade finished 2nd in the Central Coast to Martinez. The quintessential dark horse. 

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Beau Mantanona
  2. Maxx Martinez
  3. Collin Guffey
  4. Leo Contino
  5. Coen Quintana
  6. Brokton Borelli
  7. Gavin Fernandez
  8. Jacob Salcedo


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#3 Nicco Ruiz12St John Bosco1st (152)
2Dylan Pile10Los Gatos
3Angelo Posada10Poway4th (160)
4Mason Espinoza12Buchanan5th (160)
5Joe Buck11Clovis
6Jake Honey11Bakersfield
7Travis Grace9Gilroy
8Kris Castro12Chaminade
9David Alonso11Palm Desert
10Larry Borelli11Los Banos
11Joe Perez12La Costa Canyon
12Shaiden Carr12Oak Ridge

One of the bigger favorites this weekend is Bosco’s Nicco Ruiz. He’s a returning state champion with no losses on the season. He’s #3 in the country and continues to live up to that ranking with each passing event. 

Vying for the chance to upend the future ASU Sun Devil, Dylan Pile from Los Gatos. He’s fairly young, talented, and seems to have settled in here at 160 for the stretch run. He has wins over Posada and Grace. His losses were to Beau, Root, and Fernandez. A very solid sophomore showing.

Posada is another sophomore looking to improve upon last year’s 4th place finish. He’s in line to see Jake Honey in the quarters which would be a rematch of a 6-0 decision for him. 

Joe Buck and Mason Espinoza have traded decisions, going 2-2 against each other. This is set up for a classic Buchanan vs Clovis quarterfinals.

Travis Grace is a uber talented freshman who has lost close ones to Buck, Espinoza, and gave Nicco his biggest test of the season. He’s coming in as the section runner up to Pile. He’ll likely get a chance for revenge in the quarterfinals.

Jake Honey is the last of this group of 7 I think we could see in the finals. His best moments were wins over Buck, Nagra, and Borelli. He’ll need to tap into that level consistently but the talent is there.

Of the remaining medal contenders, I think Borelli and Carr are the two to pay closest attention to. They just battled it out for the Sac-Joaq title and I think one of them cracks the top 8. 

3 to watch:

  • Payne Perkins (12) (Oakdale)
  • Carter Vannest (9) (Pitman)
  • Will Cox (12) (Yorba Linda)

Perkins has a win over Carr and kept matches with Honey and Pile relatively close. Vannest is a freshman who likely develops into a real contender in a year or two but this is the time to surprise some people. Placing for Cox might be a tall order, but a couple wins in this field is there for him.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Nicco Ruiz
  2. Travis Grace
  3. Dylan Pile
  4. Angelo Posada
  5. Mason Espinoza
  6. Joe Buck
  7. Jake Honey
  8. Larry Borelli


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#8 Luke Condon12Poway3rd (170)
2Sloan Swan12Buchanan2nd (152)
3Erik McCown12Palm Desert5th (170)
4Adrien Reyes10Clovis6th (160)
5Carlos Garcia11Oakdale
6Doug Porter12Gilroy
7Mason Ontiveros9Pitman
8Max McWilliams11Calvary Chapel
9Nathan Cruz12Northview
10Khale McDonnell10Fountain Valley
11David Mitrovich12Eastlake
12Roy Haroun12Villa Park

Right after 132, I believe this weight has the next most anticipated finals. A clear top two. A little season history. Two seniors eyeing the ultimate prize. Condon and Swan gave us a very competitive 2-1 show in the Doc B semis. That one went in favor of Condon so he gets the 1 seed here. There wasn’t a takedown in whole match, you figure something has to give this time around.

Looking to throwing a wrench, or perhaps more fittingly, an Aztec spear into all of this is Palm Desert’s Erik McCown. He’s bounced between 160 and 170 all season and seems to have found a home here. His lone in-state loss was to Nicco while he has impressive wins over Buck, Espinoza, and McWilliams. The win over Buck was a pin in under a minute. Maybe that’s a fluke but on the other hand, that Palm Desert squad is all about the pins. McCown no exception.

Adrien Reyes has had a very nice season, he’s just had to face Swan like 5 times. Going 0-5. Aside from that, he’s money and is a very good bet to place here, higher than last year.

In terms of picking up a state medal, there’s nothing to not like about either Garcia or Porter. They both have navigable paths to the quarterfinals and then it’s possible this is the match up for 5th.

As for the rest of the top group, I think Ontiveros, Cruz, and McDonnell stand out for specific reasons. Ontiveros is the freshman who could tap into that next level now – building off an OT loss to Reyes.

Cruz is actually ranked among the top 5 and has been all season. He has a win over Reyes and could definitely get himself back into that top 5 mix.

McDonnell has basically wrestled everywhere. You just want to see one of these top 5 matches go his way.

3 to watch:

  • Ryan Clink (11) (Chico)
  • Jackson Cinfel (10) (Clovis North)
  • Kai Vazquez (11) (Bakersfield)

Clink just won his section. The draw is doing him no favors with Swan in the 2nd round, but he’ll make some noise in the consolations. I feel like consistency is the thing getting in Cinfel’s way. But he’s a threat. Could Vazquez take out McDonnell in round 1 and Ontiveros in round 2 and find himself in the quarterfinals? Stranger things have happened. 

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Luke Condon
  2. Erik McCown
  3. Sloan Swan
  4. Adrien Reyes
  5. Mason Ontiveros
  6. Nathan Cruz
  7. Doug Porter
  8. Max McWilliams


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#10 Tye Monteiro12Bakersfield2nd (182)
2#11 TJ McDonnell12Fountain Valley3rd (182)
3Thomas Sandoval11Vacaville4th (170)
4Sonny Kling11Canyon Springs2nd (195)
5Tyler Hodges12Clovis7th (182)
6Diego Costa11Yucaipa6th (182)
7Primo Catalano10Chaminade
8Alex Munoz12Valencia7th (170)
9Mason Walsh11Carlsbad
10Jon Rocha9Buchanan
11Sonny Acuna11Northview
12Scott Beadles11Calaveras

Lots of state qualifiers, state placers, and now state favorites abound at this weight. All season, it’s seemed like an inevitable clash between Monteiro and McDonnell. And they gave us what we wanted in a 10-8 OT decision for Monteiro.

But along the way, Sandoval said, “I’m here”, with a win over Monteiro. And then Sonny Kling came back for the stretch run and down a weight from last year. Now, what looked like the collision course between the top 2, is something entirely different. The best weight in the state.

Monteiro has the loss to Sandoval and a loss to Oregon’s Justin Rademacher in the Doc B finals and that’s it. He’s every bit the quality you expect at the top of the state.

McDonnell has the loss to Monteiro and that’s it for him. 

Sandoval wasn’t at Doc B but took a loss to Hodges at Zinkin. Aside from the Monteiro win, he also has wins over Munoz, Rocha, and Catalano.

Kling could very well be the best in the state. I believe he gets the 4 seed by virtue of much fewer matches through the season.

Hodges has shown that at his best he can go toe to toe with anyone. The 2 matches against Monteiro just haven’t gone his way… yet?

Diego Costa is right there in the top 5-8 mix yet again.

I had Primo Catalano as someone to watch heading into 5 Counties. Then McDonnell pinned him in 27 seconds. He’s still seeded to get a medal here which does speak to the quality of the season he has had outside that one result. He just took 2nd to Kling by way of 3-0 decision in the section finals.

Mason Walsh walked through the San Diego Section. We’ll get to see what he does against this field.

3 to watch:

  • Chris Barone (11) (Orland)
  • Wes Buford (9) (Oakdale)
  • Levi Bussey (10) (Granite Bay)

Barone dominated the Northern Section Masters. Dominated. Buford and Bussey just got after it for the section’s 3rd place finish. Now, they’ll have to navigate some landmines but I think at least one of them makes a solid consolation run.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Tye Monteiro
  2. TJ McDonnell
  3. Sonny Kling
  4. Thomas Sandoval
  5. Tyler Hodges
  6. Diego Costa
  7. Mason Walsh
  8. Jon Rocha


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#14 Mark Marin10Clovis5th (220)
2Ryland Whitworth11Fountain Valley6th (220)
3Eugenio Franco11Corona Del Mar
4Mark Ayala12St John Bosco8th (182)
5Keanu Trelles12Buchanan
6Robert Platt11Brawley
7Kainoa Acia12Del Oro
8Ross Cinfel10Clovis North
9Elias Corona11Oakdale
10Matt Porras-Diamond12Temecula Valley
11Daniel Gurovich12Camarillo
12Ben Vega-Sanchez12Foothill4th (195)

Marin has looked like the clear top dog in the state for a minute. He entered the season off a 3rd place finish at Super 32. And then he took a couple losses late that have opened the door a little bit. He’s still the top seed and the one with the target on his back but I think the rest of the field sees their chance at the title.

Whitworth is the one making the most noise recently. After placing 7th at Doc B (losing only to out of state wrestlers), he’s beat Doc B champ, Ayala, once and Franco three times. His only loss was to Marin much earlier in the season so I’m sure he’s eyeing that rematch.

Franco gets the seeding nod over Ayala by way of a section finals victory. He’s got two wins over Trelles and Cinfel each. He finished in the blood round last year and I believe gets into the top 5 this go round.

Ayala has the best win in the state over AJ Fricchione in the Doc B finals. You just want to see more consistency. After Doc B, he fell to Whitworth in 5 Counties final and just took 2nd to Franco in the Southern Section Gold bracket. He has wins over Platt, Cinfel, and Corona. 

Trelles and Platt were supposed meet for 5th at Doc B, but Platt had to medically forfeit. They could very well meet again in the same position. Trelles picked up a big win over Marin in the Central Section finals. Platt ran through his San Diego Section competition how you would expect.

Acia and Porras-Diamond can’t get enough of each other I guess. They’re paired to meet in the round of 16 having already wrestled twice. Acia winning both. 

Cinfel has had one of the toughest schedules in the state. Maybe that helps him here.

3 to watch:

  • Coby Merrill (9) (Gilroy)
  • Kayden Cartee (10) (Mayfair)
  • Dwight Weimer (12) (Bakersfield)

With brother Cody out, younger Merrill looks to still bring state medal home. He’s a Fargo Greco champ and placed 2nd and 3rd at the team trials in freestyle and Greco. I swear Mayfair always has some stud athlete come to Bakersfield and take out a top 4 seed. Cartee is a Fargo cadet medalist and finished 3rd at the Greco world team trials. Weimer is part of the Driller team that sent all 14 wrestlers to Bakersfield (didn’t have to send them far it turns out). Could come up big with that momentum.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Coby Merrill
  2. Ryland Whitworth
  3. Mark Marin
  4. Eugenio Franco
  5. Keanu Trelles
  6. Mark Ayala
  7. Kayden Cartee
  8. Robert Platt


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#16 Nick Sahakian10St John Bosco3rd (220)
2Mike Murillo11Bakersfield3rd (195)
3Kannon Campbell12Buchanan
4Rocky Koontz12Clovis East
5Nolan Frank12Elk Grove
6Henry Sturn12Trabuco Hills
7Joseph Ellis11Vintage
8Rayhan Jaleel12Vallejo
9Achilles Clarke12Pitman
10Angel Cervantes11Highland
11Dominic Wilson10Tulare
12Caiden Johnson12Edison

So I had thought we might be looking at a Sahakian from the Southern Section taking on Murillo from the Central. Then we had Cody Merrill make an appearance and that was turned upside down. Then Merrill got hurt and the we’re back to how it started.

Sahakian is undefeated in the state, losing only to Jersey Robb of Bixby this season. He’s coming off a 3rdplace finish as a freshman and is definitely expected to be standing in the finals come Saturday night.

Murillo is a junior, also off a 3rd place finish, also expected to be there Saturday night. His only loss was to Marin back in an early season dual. Since then, he’s swept through the Central Section.

Campbell has positioned himself as the clear 3rd here. Wins over Marin, Sturn, and Johnson highlight his season. Two losses to Murillo might mean there’s a ceiling here.

And then after Campbell, the Central Section is almost just a toss up. Especially with no David Ozuna. Koontz is the leader of this group but then Cervantes, Wilson, and Johnson, take your pick.

In between them are a handful of guys from all over the place. Ellis and Jaleel are from the North Coast and just went at it for a 3-2 Ellis decision in the finals.

Frank and Clarke did similar, a 1-0 decision for Frank.

Henry Sturn right in the middle there is the Southern Section’s 2nd best and has some close losses to Sahakian and Campbell. Seems like a candidate to challenge Campbell or Koontz.

3 to watch:

  • Elijah Vinoray (12) (Patrick Henry)
  • Cody McIntosh (12) (Trinity)
  • Deion Solis (12) (Lincoln)

Vinoray has a lot of heartbreaking defeats to the best guys. Just won the San Diego Section. Tough sledding against Murillo in round of 16 but could still upend someone in consolations. Cody McIntosh is the Northern Section champion and we think that counts for something. Let’s show a little love to the SF Section champ.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Mike Murillo
  2. Nick Sahakian
  3. Kannon Campbell
  4. Rocky Koontz
  5. Henry Sturn
  6. Rayhan Jaleel
  7. Joseph Ellis
  8. Dominic Wilson


SeedNameGradeSchool2022 CIF Place
1#7 Daniel Herrera11Palm Desert1st (285)
2#18 Zach Limon12Clovis
3Isaiah Morales12Lemoore
4Adam Farha11Poway
5Evan Glines12Vista Del Lago
6Sam Hinojosa12Stagg2nd (285)
7Alec Dansby11Buchanan
8Adam Stanley10Bakersfield
9Jerry Witty12San Pedro
10Gerard Marshall12Hoopa Valley
11Ryan Castillo12Bishop Amat
12Gary Avila12Bullard

The state finalists from last year both returned. Herrera looks like he’s better than ever. Hinojosa has a loss to Limon and then this past weekend lost to Glines in the section finals. He’s still a favorite to medal but no longer in the top 3. 

Isaiah Morales moved all the way up into the 3 seed by way of a Central Section championship that included a win over Limon.

Despite the hiccup, Limon keeps the 2 seed due to an impressive senior season.

Farha has been a little inconsistent but his win by fall over Dansby stands out as his top performance of the season.

Glines makes the move up into the top with a Section title and win over Hinojosa.

Dansby has basically beat everyone he should and not beat the guys ahead of him. Seems like he’ll likely finish right where he is.

Stanley just took a 6-3 defeat to Danby in the section semis. And I’m sure if he never sees Limon again it’ll be too soon. He’s gone 0-5 this season against the Cougar but some of them were close.

Out of that group of seniors bunched up 9-12, I like Witty as the one most likely to crash the podium party. Could be my LA City bias. 

3 to watch:

  • Dib Sawaya (12) (Valencia)
  • Frank Bainvalu (12) (El Camino Fund.) 
  • Declan Follette (11) (Laguna Creek)

Sawaya has a solid win over Witty. His draw isn’t too daunting. Maybe he’s in the quarterfinals. Frank Bainvalu just took 3rd in the Sac-Joaq Section. Might give Limon a scare. First of all, I just like Declan Folette’s name. Second of all, he took 4th to Bainvalu and I figure one of them should do something.

Predictions: Top 8

  1. Peanut Herrera
  2. Zach Limon
  3. Sam Hinojosa
  4. Isaiah Morales
  5. Alec Dansby
  6. Adam Stanley
  7. Jerry Witty
  8. Ryan Castillo