Hart takes third at state


The state converged in Santa Rosa this weekend for the CCCAA Wrestling State Championships. Colin Hart didn’t disappoint.

Hart, a Santa Rosa JC sophomore who prepped at Analy, wrestled on a severely injured left ankle but somehow managed to claim third place in the California finals for community college grapplers. Wrestling at 197 pounds, he won three matches at Haehl Pavilion, including a gritty 15-14 decision over Fresno City College’s Justin Whitten in the third-place match Saturday.

“I don’t know if anyone else would have wrestled,” said SRJC assistant coach Kevin Guinn.

Guinn and fellow assistants Rich Pederson and Scott Spratt had to take charge of the Bear Cubs during Saturday’s action. Head coach Jake Fitzpatrick chartered a plane and flew to San Luis Obispo for his daughter’s college graduation; he planned to fly back in time for the final matches, but no Bear Cub made it that far.

In all, eight SRJC wrestlers competed in the tournament, which began Friday.

Hart, who wrestled only one year at Analy, was the best of them. He had injured the ankle in a regional tournament, forfeiting his last match there. He didn’t practice all week heading into the CCCAA championships, but toughed it out through four matches. His only loss was an 8-2 decision to Shasta’s Logan Paul Eickhoff, a wrestler he had beaten three times this year.

“The injury just hampered him,” Guinn said. “He couldn’t stand on it, he couldn’t build on it on the mat.”
Beyond Hart, three Bear Cubs took seventh place in their divisions — Merk Robbins at 125 pounds, Aaron Pen Kruger at 133 and Richard Morris at 141. Vinny Fausone (165 pounds) and Dalton Berncich (174) each lost in a seventh-place match, and Xavier Bahena (184) and Leonard Castellanos (285) also qualified for the state event.

Three of those wrestlers are local products. Morris attended Santa Rosa High, Fausone graduated from Casa Grande and Berncich went to Petaluma. Berncich is a sophomore, while Fausone and Morris are freshmen.
Guinn was happy with all of them.

Berncich won two matches, both by pins — and one of those came 55 seconds into the action. His seventh-place loss was a close 8-6 decision to Chabot’s Dwight Flores.

“Dalton Berncich wrestled real well,” Guinn said. “He had stitches over his eye, he had a hurt shoulder and a busted thumb, and he made most of every match.”

Fausone won three matches, one by pin.

“Eighth in the state is not bad,” Guinn said. “He’s real tough. He pinned the guy who took fifth, and he lost one in overtime. It’s a good start for what we’ve got coming.”

Morris was strong, losing only to a wrestler who made the final and another who took sixth place. He edged Bakersfield’s Jonathon Gomez in a 7-5 decision in the seventh-place match.

Overall, it was a great experience for the Bear Cubs as they played host to the best JC wrestlers in California.

“They got to sleep in their own beds. Most of their families were able to come watch,” Guinn said. “And they hold a great tournament here. We got compliments all today and yesterday, how good things ran.”