Mission Oak’s Jaden Enriquez is congratulated by Doc Buchanan after his win in the 132-pound Doc Buchanan Invitational championship
With over 60 returning state medalist, the Doc Buchanan Invitational wrestling tournament is looked at as a key indicator of how the top wrestlers in the state will stack up against one another.
Two wrestlers from Mission Oak proved they belong at or near the very top of the heap.
Jaden Enriquez conquered the 132-pound weight class, winning gold and the iconic Doc Buchanan cowboy hat given to all tournament champions Saturday at Clovis High School. David Campbell finished second in the 113-pound bracket.
Enriquez and Campbell both placed fourth at last year’s state tournament. Their high finishes at what is considered one of the toughest tournaments on the West Coast shows they each can make legitimate runs at a state title this year.
For Enriquez, a sophomore ranked No. 2 in the state by The California Wrestler, his championship victory was even sweeter due to his inability to participate in the tournament last year.
“I’ve been wanting one of these cowboy hats so bad, and it feels good to have one finally,” Enriquez said. “I didn’t come here last year because I had a sprained ankle and I was really upset about it. I knew I had to come this year and really prove myself.”
Enriquez ran through the tournament with relative ease, winning by a pin fall and tech fall in his first two matches before a 9-2 victory in the quarterfinals. He then knocked off Clovis’ Brandon Martino 3-1 in the semis leading into his finals showdown with Brawley’s Daxton Gordon in the finals. Ranked No. 6 in the state at the time of the tournament, Gordon upset top-ranked Julian Flores from San Marino in the other semifinal.
The 132-pound final was fought tough throughout by both athletes with no points scored in the first round. Gordon was penalized a point for stalling in the second round. This was followed by an escape from Enriquez that put him up 2-0 points heading into the final stanza. A late third round takedown for Enriquez sealed the deal, securing him a 4-1 victory and the championship.
Mission Oak coach Craig Vejvoda was quick to show his enthusiasm following the victory.
“He is where he is due to all the years he’s put in to hone his craft and became better,” Vejvoda said. “He’s a great athlete who has paid his dues to be a great wrestler. As a sophomore, Jaden has put himself in a unique position over the next couple of years to become only the third Tulare wrestler to win two cowboy hats, and possibly become the first Tulare wrestler to win three.”
With all the attention on himself, Enriquez used his moment in the spotlight to explain how his family is what made it possible for him to get where he is today. To some, wrestling may be seen as an individual sport, but Enriquez sees it very differently.
“I just want to thank my Mom and Dad, and everyone who has been supporting me lately,” Enriquez said. “This is really a family sport. With me cutting weight, having to prep my meals, doing all the extra stuff like running and lifting weights, they really help me. You know this all for them because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Much like Enriquez, Campbell made an extraordinary tournament run. Ranked No. 3 in the state, he decisively beat four opponents to earn a spot in the 113-pound championship. In the semifinals Campbell defeated Colorado’s Thomas Gutierrez, who is currently ranked No. 4 in the Associated Wrestling Press national rankings at 106 pounds. Campbell was able to grind on Gutierrez over three periods to take the upset victory 3-1.
Unfortunately for Campbell, he was defeated in the finals by Clovis’s Justin Mejia for the second year in a row. Campbell showed tons of heart and fought through adversity to survive the duration of the match with Mejia, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the state.
Campbell wrestled Mejia much closer earlier this season in a 5-3 loss at the Zinkin Classic. Mejia pinned Campbell at last year’s state semifinals. The two will likely run into each other a few more times on their road to Rabobank Arena, so Campbell must find a way to beat his nemesis in order to win a state title.
Even with the loss, Coach Vejvoda believes Campbell should be proud.
“Making the finals of the Doc B is a significant achievement and he’s done it twice now,” Vejvoda said. “The guy he wrestled is the defending state champ and he is an exceptional wrestler. We’re just going to have to review the film and find a way to beat that guy heading into the post season.”