Yes, it's true Calvary Chapel is the two-time defending state team champions and the Eagles also have a probable state champion in 171-pound Joe Williams, who pinned his foe to win the section masters title.
But there's no doubt who the favorite is heading into the University of the Pacific's Spanos Center. It's Bakersfield and if everything falls into place as expected the Drillers will be celebrating on Saturday night for many reasons. Bakersfield's favorite status stems from it qualifying a whopping 10 wrestlers out of last weekend's CIF Central Section tourney. And if you follow California wrestling at all, you know the Central Section always has whoppers in just about every weight class. Nine of Bakersfield's 10 qualifiers for state made it all the way into last week's section finals and six were winners.
A state title for Bakersfield this weekend would be huge for many reasons. First, it would be the first wrestling state title for one of the state's greatest all-time athletic high schools. Dating back to the 1920s, BHS already has 11 state titles to its credit with six in football and five in boys or girls track. It also would add more shine to an already strong school year for the Drillers, who were unbeaten last fall in football and just finished an unbeaten season with a section title in girls soccer.
Heading up the Driller contingent is a wrestler on his own quest for history, Darrell Vasquez. The three-time state champion was honored last week at the section meet as one of two Outstanding Wrestlers. He won the 125-pound class with a 13-4 major decision over Tulare's J.J. Holt.
At this weekend's meet, Vasquez has a good shot of becoming the first four-time state champion in California. He put himself into position to be the first last year when he moved into the same weight class as San Jose Independence's Jacob Palomino, a senior at the time who had won three in a row. Vasquez won in the final and now it is he who will go for the four-peat. Around the country, there are many four-time state champions, but California is one of the few states that is not broken up into divisions and, well, it is an awfully big state with a lot of people and a lot of wrestlers.
Bakersfield's other section champs from last week were Nathan Morgan (112), Jake Varner (140), Andrew Spradlin (145), Drew East (152) and Josh Sherley (160).
"I believe everything is in place," Bakersfield coach David East told the Bakersfield Californian. "Now it's just a matter of wrestling. I think we'll be a little nervous this week, but we need to make sure we're prepared. We're definitely taking the right guys to state."
Other than Vasquez, the only other defending champion going back to this year's state championships is Gerard Contreras from Buchanan of Clovis. Contreras won the 103-pound crown last year as a junior and will be in same weight class again this year.