Bakersfield wrestling wins historic state title

What does 1916 football have to do with this year's Bakersfield wrestling team? Plenty, because depending on your point of view, the Drillers won the school's 12th all-time state title on Saturday night at University of the Pacific's Spanos Center or they won the school's 13th.

There was little doubt even heading into the semifinals on Saturday morning that Bakersfield was on its way to the team title. Coach Darrell East's squad already had 115.5 points after the first day and second-place Poway stood at 61. Then the seven Drillers who made it into the semis all won, which gave Bakersfield the all-time meet team scoring record even before anyone was introduced for the finals.

"That was probably the point where we knew we had it for sure," said East, who is turned over the program to Andy Varner next season. "Even doing our best I didn't think we'd do that."

Bakersfield's dominance was so strong that the most finalists any one team had previously to its seven was Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana, which had four just last year. The Drillers also finished with 226 team points, which obliterated the previous scoring mark of 170 also set just last year by Calvary Chapel.

Bakersfield earned its first wrestling state title and the first for a Kern County school. The school won its first-ever CIF state title in 1920 in football and earned additional state titles in football in 1921 (which was a co-title), 1922, 1923, 1925 and 1927. Those early CIF state football playoffs were halted after 1927 and have never been resumed. In track, Bakersfield won CIF boys team titles in 1939, 1940 and 1992 and took girls team titles in 1988 and 1990.

Here's where 1916 football comes in. Some followers of the school say that Bakersfield team gets a CIF state title, too, since it won the northern semifinal and southern semifinal winner San Diego declined to play in the final. A trophy at the school also proclaims the 1916 team as CIF state champions.

But Cal-Hi Sports founder and state record book compiler Nelson Tennis says that state title shouldn't count. He says in those early years of the CIF state playoffs it was not mandatory that any of the schools had to play in it and he has never seen any old newspaper reports of the CIF ever declaring a school a champion without a school winning a title on the field or on the court.

"I think (any state title) has to be on the field," Tennis said. "Besides, San Diego was better than Bakersfield in 1916 anyway."

Even more history was made at the state wrestling meet by Bakersfield's individual standout, Darrell Vasquez. His 7-2 victory in the 125-pound final gave him four state crowns and made him the first wrestler in the 30-year history of the event to win four titles.

And Vasquez, who won his other titles at 103 in 1999, 112 in 2000 and 119 last year, is more than aware of how difficult a feat he achieved as California is one of just four states in the nation (others are New York, Indiana and Hawaii) that does not break up its state wrestling meet into divisions.

"It's a lot of history and it's just a blessing from God," said Vasquez, who started receiving a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of more than 5,000 with about 10 seconds left in his match. "Being on this team also was just awesome. All of us doing so well just raised the level between us."

Three of the other seven Bakersfield semifinalists also went home with the gold. At 112 pounds, sophomore Nathan Morgan pinned Jordan Keckler from Grace Davis of Modesto at 2:41 of his match. At 152 pounds, Drew East, son of head coach Darrell East, capped a 38-2 season with a 16-6 major decision over Christian Arellano from Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley. And at 160 pounds, Josh Sherley, a key player for the Drillers' undefeated and nationally-ranked football team last fall, took the title with a 7-3 victory over Sven Hafemeister of Lemoore.

"It was awesome to be a part of that football team, but it's just about as equal or better for wrestling because we were able to win a state title," said Sherley, who is headed to Fresno State on a football scholarship. "We were so excited just have a shot at (the team scoring) record and to get it the way we did was awesome."

Bakersfield wrestlers who got the finals but who lost and had to settle for second-place were Tony Franco at 119 (lost to Gabe Flores of Clovis, 6-3); Alex Herrera at 130 (lost to Troy Tirapelle of Clovis, 4-2); and Andrew Spradlin at 145 (lost to Paul Baird of Poway, 5-3).

Flores and Tirapelle turned in historical moments of their own. Flores followed his father, Ernie, who was the 112-pound champ at the very first state final in 1973. Tirapelle, a sophomore, is the latest from a great wrestling family. His brother, Alex, was a three-time state champ and his other brother, Adam, won two state crowns.

The most exciting match of the night was the first one at 103 pounds. Defending champion Gerard Contreras from Buchanan of Clovis took a 7-5 lead with 14 seconds left, only to see Angel Fong from Santa Fe of Santa Fe Springs tie it with two seconds left to force overtime. Fong won it in overtime, 9-7, on a takedown with 13 seconds left. Contreras was the only other defending champion other than Vasquez in the meet.

Other state finals saw Ricky Turk from Rim of the World (Lake Arrowhead) defeat David Roberts of Clovis West, 17-13, at 135; Danny Cadwallader from Brethren Christian (Cypress) defeat Kirk Fitzpatrick of James Logan (Union City), 3-1, at 140; Joe Williams from Calvary Chapel defeat Anthony Rubalcava of Grace Davis, 3-0, at 171; B.J. Mitchell from Del Oro of Loomis defeat Kirk Davis of Arroyo Grande, 13-8, at 181; Jon Stevens of Castro Valley defeat Brock Maffia of Tulare Western, 10-5, at 215; and Arturo Basulto of Arroyo Grande defeat Jon Chretien from Fresno Edison, 3-1, at heavyweight.

The Central Section, despite being so much smaller than the massive Southern Section, was as dominant as ever. In addition to Bakersfield, the No. 2 and No. 3 finishers in team scoring were Central Section members Buchanan and Clovis. Central Section wrestlers were in the finals in 11 of the 14 weight classes and in four of the weight classes both finalists were from the section.

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