Hoover High's Arthur Ghukasyan appears ready for Masters run

There's no denying the sense of determination, hunger and borderline anger that Hoover High senior wrestler Arthur Ghukasyan is feeling and using as his motivation in his final preparation before the two-day start of the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.

Ghukasyan is his school's lone survivor through the postseason gauntlet, which included the Rio Hondo League Individual Wrestling Championships and last weekend's CIF Southern Section Eastern Division Championships at Perris Citrus Hill High.

"I'm not going to lie, I'm still pissed," Ghukasyan said. "I had a lot of teammates and coaches tell me it's OK and that I'm moving on to Masters, but it's hard not to be upset after missing my chance at a championship."

Ghukasyan (17-1) entered last weekend's Eastern Division Championships unknown and unranked with his highest accolade, outside of a league title at 160 pounds, coming when he won the Jim Bauer Palmdale Tournament.

Yet, the third-seeded Ghukasyan earned his way into the championship with three victories, including a 5-2 semifinal upset win over second-seeded Mark Aceval, who entered the tournament ranked 39th in state.

The triumph set up a 160-pound championship bout for Ghukasyan versus then 14th-ranked senior Michael Lopez of Victory Valley.

Lopez jumped out to a 5-2 advantage, but Ghukasyan rallied to within 9-7 before executing a judo toss of Lopez, the Desert Sky League champion, with under a minute left in the third round. While the maneuver worked, the thinking behind the toss was flawed as Ghukasyan hesitated ever so slightly after Lopez hit the mat.

Just as Ghukasyan was about to flip Lopez for a takedown and potentially a pin, Lopez rebounded with a reversal and landed his own fall at 5:28 to secure the championship.

"I've had some time to think about what happened and I confused my judo and wrestling moves," Ghukasyan said. "In judo, you automatically win when you toss your opponent and I stopped when I should have went for the pin.

"That stop gave him a chance to recover and I missed my chance at a pin."

Despite being his school's first-ever qualifier to the Masters Meet, Ghukasyan was nearly inconsolable Saturday evening.

"It was tough for him," Tornadoes Coach Dave Beard said. "We all thought he was going to win after he tossed [Lopez]. He had worked so hard to have that opportunity and it was really tough to convince him that he still did great."

Memory of the defeat was on Ghukasyan's mind as the senior resumed practicing at both San Marino High and Kenam's Fighting Club in Glendale this week.

"I've learned a lot practicing at San Marino with some intense guys and I'm always comfortable with the training at Kenam's," Ghukasyan said. "I want to learn from my mistakes and practice has helped."

Beard tried his best to balance passion and obsession this week as well.

"I'm happy that he's motivated and he's fired up for Masters and he's going to use what happened at CIF as his fuel," Beard said. "But I also want him to get past last weekend. It happened, there's no going back. You can only look forward."

Competition begins at 10 a.m. Friday and Ghukasyan finds himself in an unfamiliar roll as he's making his debut on thecaliforniawrestler.com state rankings at No. 36 and will open against unranked senior Ryan Lombardi of Atascadero, who finished fourth in the Central Division championships.

A victory would vault Ghukasyan into the second round versus either sophomore Tigran Meltonian of Schurr, who finished fifth at the Coastal Division finals, or against Long Beach Millikan's Chris Messerschmitt, the Southern Division champion.

A loss would put Ghukasyan a defeat away from elimination in the consolation bracket.

The goal for all wrestlers is to finish in the top nine to earn advancement to the season-ending 42nd annual CIF State Boys' Wrestling Championships held at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on March 7 and 8.

"My focus is to get one of those nine spots," Ghukasyan said. "I know that the competition at Masters is going to be tougher than what I saw at CIF, but I'm ready. Hopefully, I'll make it to state, but I'm going to give everything I have either way."


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