Francisco Gamboa preferred his anonymity.
But when he defeated Alex Becerra, 10-7, to win the 189-pound title at the Masters meet Saturday, the University High senior found himself in the spotlight.
“I actually like it when the guy I’m wresting doesn’t know who I am,” Gamboa said, “It takes the pressure off.”
The last time Gamboa wrestled Becerra was at Masters last year. There, he pinned the Santa Ana senior.
“I felt pretty confident that I could beat Alex,” Gamboa said after the match. “But I don’t want to look too far ahead.”
Gamboa started wrestling when he was a freshman. He has also played football for the Trojans, as a defensive tackle, for four years.
Last year, Gamboa finished sixth at the state finals; however, he had to forfeit his semifinal match because of a broken elbow.
“It was amazing he could finish that [quarterfinal] match,” University Coach Ryan Dahlen said. “It happened in the third period. He’s a very tough kid who has a high threshold for pain.”
Gamboa, 18, doesn’t remember who he was wrestling, but remembers the pain.
“I had to put the pain behind me,” Gamboa said. “All I could do was sprawl, and I as able to finish.”
Dahlen said Gamboa has a way of frustrating wrestlers who have good technique.
“He’s a very explosive wrestler,” Dahlen said. “He doesn’t look like he’s buff, but he’s incredibly strong and agile.”
Said Gamboa: “I think the first shot is the most important. It sets the tone for the match.”
Despite being a state finalist last year, Gamboa was absent among the top three wrestlers in his weight class in the county polls most of the season.
“He was coming off a shoulder injury he suffered in football,” Dahlen said. “He missed Five Counties and that didn’t help in the rankings.”
Said Gamboa: “I want my wrestling to do my talking. I think I have a shot to win state, but my shoulder has been hurting.
“But I just have to put the pain off for one more week, and I know I can do that.”
Thirty-nine Orange County wrestlers advance to the state finals Friday and Saturday in Stockton. They are:
103 pounds--Orlando Galvan (Loara), Anthony Archuleta (Calvary Chapel); 112--Tommy Peralta (Villa Park), Josh Galvan (Loara), Anthony Rodriguez (Brethren Christian); 119--Doug Yadon (Villa Park), Anibal Russell (Dana Hills); 125--Michael Simpson (Brethren Christian); Steve Esparza (Calvary Chapel), Robert Antenore (Irvine), Gilbert Melendez (Santa Ana).
130--Frank Gill (Calvary Chapel), Albert Frausto (Brea Olinda); 135--Adam Benitez (Calvary Chapel), Steve Garcia (Brethren Christian), Risto Martinen (Dana Hills); 140--Frank Richmond (Kennedy), Brian LaMay (Capistrano Valley), Scott Oda (Fountain Valley), Sohail Abrahim (Dana Hills); 145--Adam Bones (Calvary Chapel), Osvaldo Avalos (Santa Ana), Joe Cobo (Irvine); 152--Fidel Archuleta (Calvary Chapel), Willie Parks (Villa Park), Joe Brady (San Clemente), Noah Koendarfer (Mission Viejo).
160--Andy Tufnell (Calvary Chapel), Wyatt Howard (Irvine); 171--Conan Williams (Calvary Chapel), Danny Pierro (El Dorado), Fernando Magana (Loara); 189--Francisco Gamboa (University), Alex Becerra (Santa Ana), Bobby Davis (Valencia), Jeremy Ellis (Loara); 215--Joe Ellis (Loara); HEAVYWEIGHT--David Liti (Foothill), James Benton (Villa Park).