By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Gunn seniors Eric Cramer and Daniel Papp plus junior Sean Lyster don't have to venture far to discuss with a state champion what it's like to win a title. In fact, they don't even have to leave campus.
As Cramer, Papp and Lydster prepared this week to compete at the 2013 CIF State Championships on Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield, any tips could be found by talking to Gunn junior Cadence Lee.
Lee improved upon her second-place finish of a year ago by capturing her first title at the third annual CIF Girls Wrestling State Invitational Championships on Saturday at Lemoore High.
"I'm just as happy about the title as I was the day after it happened," Lee said this week. "It's really a great feeling, but very soon I'll have to move on and set new goals for the future.
"I haven't really said anything to Eric or Daniel (or Sean), and I'm sure Coach Horpel will prepare them both physically and mentally for the competition. He has really experienced wrestling at such a high level and I'm sure he can prepare them for this weekend."
Cramer and Lydster each finished second and Papp third in their respective divisions at the Central Coast Section Championships last weekend at Independence High in San Jose. All three will be competing in their first state tournament.
"As I always say, if you are good enough to qualify, you are good enough to place," said Gunn coach Chris Horpel. "If you are good enough to place, you are good enough to win it. So, I have three wrestlers who are going to test this theory with full belief that they can do exactly as I said."
Papp (120) gets a first-round bye and will face either Gio Castillo of Centennial Corona or James Gomez of Woodcreek. Cramer (126) will open against Daniel Williams of Hughson while Lydster (195) takes on Tyler MacDonald of Newbury Park.
"The last thee Gunn wrestlers to place in state did not win the CCS, so there you go," said Horpel. "We just have to win the close ones, and there will be lots of close ones."
Lee, unfortunately, will not be on hand to watch her teammates in Bakersfield.
"I would love to go and watch this weekend," she said, "but I'm currently trying to catch up on school work that I missed during my season."
Joining the Gunn trio in Bakersfield will be Palo Alto senior Gary Hohbach at 152. He finished third in his weight class at CCS and will have a first-round bye, facing the winner of Justin Barnes (Bret Harte) and Alexander Graves (San Marcos), the latter the San Diego Section champ.
"Gary has a good draw," said Paly coach Dave Duran. "He is on an open end of a pigtail match -- he will get to see his opponent wrestle before facing him -- a good place to be.
"Gary has performed well in the tougher tournaments this year. We expect to see even more improvement this weekend. It is all about a good draw and two solid days of wrestling. The goal now is one match at a time, get to the next day."
One of the state's toughest wrestlers, Cole Hammond of Bakersfield, is in Hohbach's side of the bracket.
"We are hoping to face him Friday afternoon," said Duran. "Earning a medal at the California State Wrestling Championships may be the hardest thing to accomplish in all of high school athletics. Gary knows this and welcomes the challenge."
Lee knows full well what Duran is talking about as she met the challenge and succeeded. She won four straight matches, two by pin, and topped off her performance with a 5-3 decision over Angelica Llanes of Arvin in the 103-pound title match. After having two byes, Lee pinned Eva Soto of Pomona in 3:56. She followed that by pinning Harmonie Roberts of Ukiah in 1:52. In the semifinals, Lee posted a 4-0 win over Brittny Hernandez of Charter Oak.
Gunn placed 18th with 35 points as Lee became the school's first state champ in wrestling and the third state champion of all-time.
"It's really a great feeling knowing that I'm the third girl to win a state title at Gunn, but I have to focus on my goals for the future," Lee said.