Buchanan Bears pose for a photo after winning their second straight state wrestling title. (Photo contributed by Tony Rotundo/wrestlersarewarriors.com)
By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
It was truly a golden weekend for the wrestling programs of Buchanan and Clovis High as the Bears won their second straight CIF State team championship while Justin Mejia of Clovis cemented himself as one of the greatest California high school wrestlers of all timsde.
Buchanan won the team title with 213 points and were led by state champions Anthony Montalvo (182) and Cade Belshay (220). Clovis, whose five-year state stronghold was snapped by the Bears last year, was second with 189 points.
But the talk of the weekend was Mejia, as the senior won his fourth-consecutive state title with a 3-2 win over Selma’s Robert Garcia in the 126-pound final. The anticipated match was moved to the final event of the two-day tournament, a fitting end for a most storied career.
Clovis coach Adam Tirapelle, who was a two-time state champion in high school and an NCAA champion in 2001 while at the University of Illinois, understood the pressure that faced Mejia, who was attempting to become only the second wrestler in California history with four titles.
“I’ve wrestled in some big matches but the weight of the world on a 17-year old kid going for his fourth state title was something I could only pretend to understand, and something most can’t even begin to comprehend,” said Tirapelle, whose brother, Troy, is the Buchanan head coach. “It’s been a unique experience and a trying season, trying to get the best just to be the best version of himself and leave it all on the mat.
“I can’t tell you how difficult that was for Justin Mejia but like a true warrior, he scratched and clawed and never conceded, like he has every time for the last 170-plus straight matches we’ve been a part of. He’s a special person in more ways than I can list.”
And fellow Cougar Seth Nevills, a heavyweight, will attempt to become the third member of this exclusive club next year. Nevills won his third-straight title and is a mind-boggling 127-0 in his career. Nevills pinned Jose Flores of Delhi in 57 seconds in the final.
Clovis senior Brandon Martino upset number-one seeded Joel Romero of Buchanan in 160 by a score of 6-3. Buchanan’s Ethan Leake and Matt Olgin, both defending state champions, placed third at 113 and 120 respectively. Clovis West’s Ryan Reyes placed third at 195.
Montalvo beat Colbey Harlan of Oakdale 5-3 and Belshay beat Darryl Aiello from De La Salle 7-4, a year after placing fifth at 170.
“It’s satisfying to see the team go back-to-back state champs,” said Belshay, a senior who’s wrestling at Penn University next year and pointed to the effort of teammate Isaiah Ortiz for stepping up as a 200 pound heavyweight and earning a seventh place finish despite being ranked outside the top 20. “It’s a relief to win a title my senior year, I’ve been working for it my whole life.”