■ By Leland Gordon / Special Assignment
BAKERSFIELD – Just making it to the CIF State Wrestling Championships is hard enough. Three weeks of qualifying tournaments finally give way to the ultimate gathering and only 40 wrestlers make it to Rabobank Arena in each weight.
Because California doesn’t divide its state tournament by enrollment divisions, it’s considered the toughest state tournament in the nation. And that’s why Hemet and San Jacinto can take pride in the fact that both of its local entrants came away with victories.
Hemet senior Isaiah Burks (145 pounds) and San Jacinto junior Gian Facio (106 pounds) each walked away with victories, no small achievement considering the talent level at the tournament.
Showing up with the No. 11 overall seed, Burks was looking to improve upon his Top 12 finish in last season’s tournament. Things immediately didn’t go as planned, as he was stunned in a 4-2 loss to unseeded Greg Guzman of Lemoore. It was an upset and it immediately put the senior in a win-or-go-home situation the rest of the way.
To top it off there was confusion in the match’s order on its mat. Burks was still in the tunnel while his opponent was out warming up. He scrambled out to the mat and afterward said it affected his performance.
“I was frantic. They had been calling me out and I was waiting in the tunnel for 20 minutes,” Burks said. “I don’t think I was really ready. When I lost, it was devastating.”
He responded by staying alive in the consolation rounds, winning two matches by pin. Burks stuck Hunter Roberson of Rancho Buena Vista (San Diego) in two minutes, three seconds and then did the same to Alexander Escudero of Los Gatos in 2:53.
But that would be the final win of his trip. Burks succumbed 8-5 to Beau Bradley of Monache (Porterville) due to a three-point near fall in the final period. Burks had a 5-3 lead but a late takedown and that near fall were too much to overcome.
“I felt like I wrestled pretty well (against Bradley) but there was some scramble and I got caught on my back,” said Burks, a Concordia College (Neb.) commit who was emotional after his second loss. “I felt heartbroken. I worked four long hard years and this was the result. I knew I could have got a medal. I don’t feel like I was really in it that day.”
Hemet has won seven medals in the history of the tournament but has not had a medalist since 1999 (Steve Unger).
Facio showed up ranked 22 in the state and was experiencing the state meet for the first time. Things didn’t start well, as he was pinned late in the second round by Dakota Unpingco of Freedom (Oakley) and had to move down into consolation.
His big moment came next. Facio came out firing in his first consolation match and made quick work of Easton Amuro of Calvary Chapel (Santa Ana), recording a pin in just 44 seconds.
But Facio’s day came to an end in the next round when Caydin Wickard of Golden Valley (Merced) throttled him in an 18-2 technical fall.
He will be back wrestling next year, hoping to once again qualify for state and make a run for the fourth medal in the school’s history. The last San Jacinto wrestler to medal at the state meet was Chad Thornock, who took seventh in 2007 and sixth in 2009.
“It wasn’t weird at all being there. I knew that I belonged there wrestling with the 40 best in the state. My goal was to perform my best and win as much as I could,” Facio said. “I learned that I need to work way harder and that I can’t hold myself back.”