Having your hand raised after winning a section championship would be validation for a lot of high school wrestlers.
For Alisal High’s Jovan Villalobos and Palma High’s Hildelv Manzur they have yet to feel that satisfaction. Their goals rest even higher.
“I’ve accomplished most of my goals,” said Manzur, the Central Coast Section heavyweight champion. “It felt good to get the CCS title but it didn’t fulfill me. I feel like I need to get a state title — that would probably make me feel a lot better.”
Villalobos, the CCS 170-pound champion, and Manzur are two of the 10 Monterey County wrestlers opening up competition today in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. King City’s Luis Quintero was also a CCS champion at 160 pounds.
All the wrestlers are hoping to etch their names alongside the 25 other wrestlers from the county that have placed.
“Definitely it’s my goal to be on that podium, if not win it,” said Villalobos, a three-time state qualifier. “I have a good opportunity. I’m ranked seventh right now, but one through eight have a pretty good shot at anyone winning, it’s just whoever has the best weekend … It would mean the most for me to go out on top, you know after three tries.”
Villalobos said he’s having the type of season he envisioned — no serious injuries and a new level of mental toughness.
“The last couple of years a lack of confidence is what hurt me,” Villalobos said. “Right now we’re firing on all cylinders and I’m ready to go.”
Villalobos has scouted out his path to reach the semifinals, picking up knowledge of nearly every single wrestler in his weight class. He’s wrestled against several of them and got a chance to work out with the No. 2 seed in San Jose.
“The opportunity is right out there in front of me I just need to take it,” Villalobos said.
Manzur raised his level of wrestling in his senior year by competing in national tournaments in the summer. Palma coach Simon Jimenez said wrestling in venues such as Fargo, N.D., in front of several thousand fans, prepares you for everything.
Manzur was rated the No. 1 heavyweight in the CCS for the entire season and takes an undefeated 30-0 record into state.
“My real motivation was last year when I lost at section,” Manzur said. “That really helped me work harder and get better over the summer. It helped have this season I’m having now.”
Manzur lost to Seaside’s Jonathan Tuiolosega in the CCS finals last year. Tuiolosega went on to place eighth in state.
The Chieftain senior said he’s knocked off a lot of goals this year, but everything has been building toward this weekend.
“CCS is nice to get, but I’ve raised the bar for my goals and I want to be a state champion,” he said. “It was a stepping stone for state.”
Manzur, who is the seventh CCS champion from Palma, is one of four Chieftains to qualify for state — the most the school has sent in Jimenez’s 13 season.
Also earning their way to Bakersfield is senior Tyler Escoto (220), senior Christian Palacios (145) and Alex Garcia (138).
Escoto finished runner-up at CCS this year after falling one win short of qualifying for state last year. He said being a part of this team definitely gave him more strength.
“That loss made me work even harder,” Escoto said. “I’m blessed to have some great partners. They’re the reason I’m here.
Palacios is the fourth member of his family to qualify for state. His father made it while wrestling at Gonzales High and his two brothers earned berths while wrestling at North Monterey County.
His family was all in attendance when he won that third-place match at CCS last weekend in San Jose.
“It was great to do that in front of my family,” Palacios said.
Rounding out the local competitors is King City sophomore Oscar Covarrubias (106), Alisal sophomore Rico Huerta (113), Monterey senior Jacob Golden (182) and Pacific Grove senior Keaton Klockow (189).