Jose Najera had a feeling at the start of the wrestling season that he might have a shot a placing at state.
As the season progressed and Najera started to record impressive victories over prominent competitors from in and outside the county, it became apparent the goals of the Santa Ana junior were within reach.
"When the season started, I actually saw myself placing in the top five. But to take second . . . ," Najera said.
Najera ended the season with a 49-7 record, a Division III title and a third-place finish at Masters. He was second in the state meet at 112 pounds and is The Times Orange County wrestler of the year.
"I always thought Jose had the potential, but if anybody told me that he would take second at state. . . . It really shows how much determination Jose has, and I think will continue to have next year," Santa Ana Coach Scott Glabb said.
Najera didn't wrestle extensively on the club level, but, like most of Glabb's wrestlers, started during his freshman year at Santa Ana.
Glabb said Najera demonstrated early that he had the physical ability to excel at the sport. But more importantly, he possessed the mental toughness, which Glabb said can make or break a wrestler, no matter his ability.
"He has incredible focus and commitment. And that's why I think he might have a good chance of winning state next year," Glabb said.
At state, Najera defeated Mando Mendez of Clovis Buchanan in the semifinals. The day before, Mendez had upset defending state champion J.J. Roberts of El Cajon Valhalla, winning by fall.
In the semifinal, Najera came back from a 4-3 deficit to beat Mendez in the last seconds, 5-4.
In the final, Najera wrestled a superb match against Charlie Davis of Ceres. The match went down to the wire before Davis edged Najera, 4-3.
Said Najera: "I think I have a chance to take it all next year. But I have to work hard, and stay focused. That's the most important part."