A banner year for Tulare County wrestling continued onto the national stage this weekend.
Two wrestlers from Tulare County won national championships and another took third at the National High School Coaches Association Wrestling Championships Saturday at Virginia Beach Convention Center.
Porterville’s Mason Pengilly won a national title at 120 pounds in the senior division. Mission Oak’s Jaden Enriquez won a national title at 126 pounds in the freshman division and Dinuba’s Jacob Wright placed third in that same bracket.
Pengilly pinned his first three opponents before beating eventual third place medalist Heath Gleaton from North Carolina 8-2 in the semifinals and Pennsylvania’s Tyrone Klump 5-2 in the championship.
Enriquez landed pins in five of his six matches including a second period fall of Florida’s Franco Valdes in the championship. The only match in which he did not pin his opponent was a 5-0 win in the Round of 16 against No. 1 seeded Alex Montes from Pennsylvania.
“We have the toughest state in wrestling,” Enriquez said. “I’m wanted to show him what Cali is made of.”
Enriquez said wrestling at the NHSCA was more nerve wracking than his first trip to Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena for the state tournament where he took fourth. He believes the state tournament provides a tougher draw because it is not divided by each grade, but he did call wrestling at the national level a “higher standard.”
When he was done, Enriquez said he was approached by several college coaches. Most notable was Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson, a former Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion.
“I was a little nervous,” Enriquez said of the encounter. “Pretty much in shock.”
Enriquez said he has no plans to verbally commit to any college program anytime soon. He should have plenty of options after a breakout freshman year that will continue at USA Wrestling Nationals Thursday through Saturday at Cedar Falls, Iowa. Enriquez will then represent California at the Cadet National Duals at Daytona Beach, Florida.
Wright won his first three matches before losing 12-4 to eventual fifth place medalist Travis Stefanik from Pennsylvania in the quarterfinals. He rebounded with three more wins before beating New York’s Hunter Richard 2-1 in overtime of the third place match.