The first CIF State wrestling championship meet took place at Cal State Hayward (now East Bay) in 1973.
Since 2004, Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield has been the home of the state meet.
An additional chapter will be added to state meet wrestling history this week. The continued growth of high school girls’ wrestling has resulted in the boys’ and girls’ state championship meets all being held under the same roof.
Beginning Thursday, the 2019 CIF State wrestling championships for both the boys and the girls will be played out in a three-day tournament.
Corona del Mar senior Kiersten Muse is the area’s lone state qualifier on the girls’ side. She was the runner-up at 137 pounds in the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet for the girls at Eastvale Roosevelt High on Feb. 16. Westminster junior Aine Drury, the defending state champion in her weight class, pinned Muse in the final.
After falling one match shy of making it to the state meet last year, Muse said she was filled with pride to become CdM’s first state qualifier since Adam Elias in 1979.
“I knew I was the first girl to ever go to state from CdM, but I didn’t know that I was the first [individual] in 40 years until after I qualified,” Muse said. “When I found out, I was filled with a lot of pride. It made me proud to see the progress I’ve made with wrestling. It makes me even more excited to compete at the state championships.
“A few alumni are even coming to Bakersfield to watch me wrestle, which is cool. Wrestling at state has been a goal of mine since freshman year. Nothing makes me happier than reaching that goal.”
The Sea Kings have one state champion in their history. Spyro Kemble won the 175-pound title in 1976.
With Drury standing in the way of a potential title, Sea Kings coach Mark Alex said that a good goal for Muse would be to take home a medal by finishing in the top eight.
Muse has said in the past that she is unsure if she will wrestle in college, but Alex does not think that will put further pressure on Muse to make her last weekend of high school wrestling memorable.
“Her confidence is booming,” Alex said of Muse. “She is ready to go. She is going to lay it all on the line. She’s not nervous. She is going to enjoy her last week of wrestling as a high-schooler. It’s not going to affect her either way. She knows that if she wants to wrestle in college, her performance this weekend doesn’t really matter. It’s the body of work the coach will look at.
“Her internal drive to be the best is going to make her fight her hardest, regardless of stopping or continuing [her wrestling career].”
Muse will face Durham’s Sofia Poblanco, the fourth-place qualifier from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, in the first round.
Fountain Valley will have three competitors in the state finals, including the area’s lone state returner in sophomore Max Wilner, who is the No. 4 seed in the 160-pound bracket.
Wilner is hoping to become the Barons’ first state champion, although he faces a possible meeting with top seed Matthew Olguin of Clovis Buchanan in the semifinals. In the Zinkin Classic at Buchanan High in December, Wilner lost to Olguin 5-1.
The newly-minted Masters champion will begin his state tournament against Shingle Springs Ponderosa’s Riley Lewallen, a fourth-place qualifier from the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Barons’ freshmen Sean Solis and Zach Parker were the other locals to qualify.
Solis drew Oakdale sophomore Brayden Abell, the No. 4 seed in the 106-pound bracket, for his first match.
Parker, a 113-pounder, received a first-round bye. He will face the winner of No. 6 seed Hayden Zinkin of Clovis North and San Fernando’s Cristian Loera.
“I think every match is tough,” Barons coach Dennis Piramo said. “The California state [wrestling] championships is tough, period. There are a couple tough draws with Sean Solis and Zach [Parker]. They’re freshmen, so you never know what to expect. I didn’t expect Zach to beat the No. 1 seed [in San Marino’s Koa Ruiz], but he did at Masters.
“Those guys have been wrestling for a long time, since youth clubs. Anything can happen. They’ve got a tough road, but I think they’re tough, as well.”
CIF State wrestling championships
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, through Saturday, Feb. 23.
Where: Rabobank Arena (1001 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, CA 93301)