Empire wrestlers aim for NCS, state titles

By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The wrestling postseason ramps up today, with the boys NCS meet beginning in Newark as the girls CIF state championships get under way in Lemoore.

“The kids for the whole area came out pretty well” for NCS, said Rich Carnation, head coach at Windsor, who represented North Coast boys at last weekend’s seeding meeting.

[Related: Seedings for this weekend's NCS tournament, plus list of Empire participants, updated early Friday]

The top four finishers in each weight class at NCS advance to the boys CIF meet next weekend in Bakersfield.

Empire wrestlers are in great shape to dominate at 154 pounds and at heavyweight, in particular, Carnation said.

At last weekend’s SCL league meet, Casa Grande’s Jack Fausone, seeded No. 1 at NCS, beat El Molino’s Blake Borges, the No. 4 NCS seed, in extra time. Fausone and Borges alone would give the Empire great representation, but they’re joined by No. 6 Chris Berg of Ukiah, No. 7 Bruce Tucker of Upper Lake and No. 8 Joey Clay of Rancho Cotate. (Berg beat Clay in a hard-fought title match at Saturday’s NBL meet.)

“The 154 weight class could end up being the Redwood Empire’s weight class. That’s going to be a really interesting, wild weight class,” Carnation added.

At heavyweight, Willits’ Quintton Bowlds, Casa Grande’s Elijah Qualls and Healdsburg’s Eric Chavez are the top three. Qualls and Chavez, who have a healthy rivalry in the SCL, could face each other in the semifinals. North Coast wrestlers also dominate the seeds at 184 pounds, with El Molino's Taryn Christiansen, Healdsburg's Ricardo Sandoval and Ukiah's Max Oswald claiming the top three spots.

Two of the Empire’s top hopes for a state medal are Sandoval's Healdsburg teammates, Adam Hendrickson at 147 and Matthew Tsarnas at 162. Both are ranked No. 2 headed into NCS and spent much of the season traveling to tough meets around the state.

Healdsburg head coach Scott Weidemier said Hendrickson is hoping for a match against No. 1 seed Alex Abono from De la Salle, who placed ahead of him at state last year while Hendrickson was injured.

“He’s motivated as a No. 2 seed,” Weidemier said of Hendrickson, who’s vying for his fourth trip to state. “Last year, he was expected to win as a No. 1 (at NCS), and this year he’s got something to prove.”

Also a strong No. 2 seed is Rancho Cotate’s Anthony Navarro at 172, who’s had a dominant senior season to go 31-1 for the Cougars.

At the girls CIF meet in Lemoore, the Empire’s best chance for a state title is Navarro’s Rancho teammate, Kayla Aggio at 146 pounds. Aggio took third last year at both state and nationals.

[Related: Padecky – Aggio simply 'Star' struck]

After a strong NCS meet, Ukiah is sending four girls to state.

“They work as hard as the boys, so they deserve it,” Ukiah coach Gary Cavender said, adding that the whole girls team made the trip to Lemoore to cheer on Ruby Segura (132) and Harmonie Roberts (114), who both took first at NCS, plus Rachael Haskell (235) and Maya Maurer (98).

The Empire's other girls title-winner at NCS, Middletown's Maria Castaldo (98) will head south along with her teammate, Sierra Egger (103).

Maria Carrillo sophomore Molly Trejo is making her second trip to state after finishing third at 138 pounds at NCS. Pumas coach Tim Bruce said Trejo is unphased by her third-place finish at NCS after winning as a freshman.

"She feels good," Bruce said. "She's a lot better prepared (for state) this year than she was last year."

Bruce said Trejo has a great shot at placing.

"She placed fifth at the Vintage tournament" in Napa, he said. "Girls from all over the state go to that tournament, so that gives you kind of a forecast of how you might do at state. There's 38 girls in the bracket at Vintage."

Other Empire girls heading to state include Montgomery's Gina Audiss (98), Casa Grande's Erika Mihalca (122) and Paige Steiding (154); Petaluma's Ashley Tresch (122) and Carmen Torress (126); and El Molino's Kaity Berry (165).

Eric Wittmershaus is The Press Democrat’s online sports editor. You can reach him at 521-5433 or eric [dot] wittmershaus [at] pressdemocrat [dot] com.