By DOUG AMADOR
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The beauty of the California Interscholastic Federation state wrestling championships is that you can drop your final match and still walk away a winner.
Such was the case Saturday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, where the three remaining Empire wrestlers — Windsor’s Perez Perez and Oscar Rios, and El Molino’s Taryn Christiansen — all placed in the top eight of their respective weight classes to bring home medals.
Perez, who Friday won all three of his matches at 106 pounds to get into the semifinals, lost all three of Saturday’s matches but still placed sixth.
Rios, at 195 pounds, won his first match but lost the next two to place eighth. Christiansen (184) followed the same pattern for his No. 8 placing.
Many of the matches appeared as if they could go either way.
“All these kids who placed in the top eight, if you wrestled them again, the finish would be different,” Windsor coach Rich Carnation said by phone. “And if you wrestled them (a third time), the results would still be different. It’s that close.”
Entering Saturday’s semifinals, Perez already was guaranteed a sixth-place finish, the highest state placing in school history (Cody Howe finished seventh in 2009).
His hopes of scoring the state championship medal were dashed, however, in an 11-7 loss to Adrian Camposano of Fresno’s Central High. The key moment came when Camposano reversed a takedown move by Perez that ended up being a four-point swing.
“Perez actually took the kid down but didn’t hold him down long enough to get the takedown,” Carnation said.
The next match, Perez dropped a 5-0 decision to Tommy Espinosa of Otay Ranch.
In his third and final match, Perez stayed with Durbin Lloren of Buchanan until the end but could not make the final move that could have reversed a 3-2 loss.
“He scrambled at the very end,” Carnation said, “but time ran out before Perez could get the takedown.”
Still, compared with last year’s 0-2 showing as a sophomore at state, Perez found success in Bakersfield and his future appears bright.
“Who knows what he can do next year,” Carnation said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Meanwhile, Rios clinched his medal Saturday when he scored a takedown with 10 seconds remaining to beat Josh Karam of Clovis North 3-2.
In his second match, Rios squared off with a familiar foe: North Coast Section champion Clayton Hartwell of James Logan, against whom Rios lost 3-1 last weekend in the NCS semifinals.
Saturday, they battled in another close contest, but Rios again ended up on the losing end, 2-1 in three overtimes.
In his final match, Rios narrowly missed a takedown near the end and lost 5-3 to No. 1 seed Mason Kumashiro of Los Alamitos.
Rios, a senior, had been wrestling on a bum knee that he injured during football season and reinjured last month in a wrestling match.
“He hasn’t been on top of his game (because of the knee),” Carnation said of the senior. “All of his matches were really close. He was grinding it out. Every match was a dogfight.”
Christiansen, who went 0-2 at state last year, beat Dillon Harroun of Tehachapi 11-8 to get into the medal round, then lost to Matt Williams of Sultana 6-3 and Johnny Beltran of Servite 3-0.
Not only did Christiansen earn the first state medal in El Molino history, but the senior became the first Lions wrestler to win a state match.
“The kid made history,” El Molino coach Bill Borges said. “It was an outstanding weekend for him. One hundred and eighty-four was one of the toughest weight classes out there. It was his last chance for a state medal. He dug deep and wrestled very hard.”