When state championships are held in Bakersfield, which they are in wrestling and basketball this year, the city is at the top of the list of go-to places for athletes.
Palo Alto senior Jack Sakai and Gunn junior Stefan Weidemann are definitely looking forward to heading south next weekend. Both have qualified for the CIF State Championships in wrestling (March 5-6) and have been pointing toward this trip all season.
The two local wrestlers earned berths by finishing fourth in their respective divisions at the Central Coast Section finals last Saturday at Independence High in San Jose. Weidemann was fourth at 140 pounds while Sakai qualified at 130.
"His goal was to get to the state meet," Paly coach Dave Duran said of Sakai. "He put in a lot of time in the spring and summer over the past three years to make this happen. He had his best tournament of the year at the Mid Cals in January and he improved on that performance at the section meet."
Sakai, the No. 6 seed in his weight class, opened with a 15-0 technical fall over TJ San Diego of Serra. Sakai then pinned Michael Atondo of Mitty in 3:40. In the third round, Sakai lost to third-seded Atonie Linares of Oak Grove, 17-2 in a tech fall.
That dropped Sakai into the consolation bracket, where he pinned Jesse Martinez of South San Francisco in 2:06 to wrap up the first day of action with a 3-1 record.
On Saturday, Sakai decisioned Drew Johnson of Sobrato, 3-2, and Zack Rodriguez of San Benito, 8-2. In the match for third, Sakai again fell to Linares, 11-6.
"We had two tough rounds of wrestling — championship Round 2 and consolation Round 4 — cost us a lot of team points," Duran said. "We were missing two big point scorers and potential placers going into the tournament. We still wanted to finish in the top 15. (But) Those two rounds were costly.
"It was a first-time CCS tournament for five of our qualifiers. We are young and have some hungry wrestlers who are willing to work hard — we did not meet all our goals, but we are proud of our kids and we did have a good season. We will improve on our section performance next season. As for now, we are all very proud of Jack. The way he keeps improving, we are looking for two more solid days of wrestling in Bakersfield."
The same likely could be said of Weidemann, who came into CCS seeded first and looked like a No. 1 right from the start. He opened Friday's first day by pinning Zac Grove of Riordan in 3:48. Weidemann followed with a pin of Joe Else of Aptos in 4:25 and a pin of Mike Lucero of Gilroy in 3:30. Weidemann, however, was then pinned by No. 1 seed Joe Johnson of Fremont in 5:55.
In the consolation bracket, Weidemann bounced back with an 8-6 decision over Victor Saldana of Overfelt before losing by pin to No. 3 seed Jon McCarty of Mitty in 3:29.
With Weidemann advancing to Bakersfield, Gunn now has qualified at least one wrestling to the state meet six straight years.
After winning only its first Central Coast Section playoff game in four years, the Palo Alto girls' basketball team has every right to celebrate just a little bit. The Vikings, however, have to get back to work quickly if they want to do any more celebrating.
Palo Alto (13-10) was back in action on Thursday night when it travels to face No. 7 seed Mills (13-12) in the second round of the CCS Division II playoffs. Paly, the No. 10 seed, advanced with a solid 61-34 victory over No. 15 Leland on Tuesday night.
The Vikings had to battle, as they trailed 22-10 in the second quarter. At that point, Paly coach Scott Peters switched to zone defense, which helped his team narrow the deficit to 25-23 at halftime.
Leland had a hard time getting a good shot against Paly's zone in the third quarter. The Vikings, meanwhile, warmed up and outscored the visitors 23-2 as junior forward Katerina Peterson scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the period. Junior guard Mariah Philips also two 3-pointers in the quarter as the Vikings pulled away. She finished with nine points.
Peters singled out Lindsay Black for her defense as she was "all over the court and a big reason Palo Alto's zone defense was tough to score against," Peters said. Sophomore guard Shamelia Clay and freshman guard Stephanie Allen each chipped in eight points.
In a CCS Division I opener on Tuesday, senior Victoria Fakalata scored 23 points as No. 10-seeded Menlo-Atherton advanced to the second round with a 57-36 win over No. 15 Homestead (12-12). The Bears (12-15) visited No. 7 Gunn (9-13) on Thursday night. Alexandria Flowers added 10 points for M-A while Sela Tupou and Jessica Tuliau split 16. The Bears grabbed a 36-16 halftime lead and added to it with a 17-8 bulge in the third quarter.
No. 10-seeded Menlo-Atherton moved on to the second round of the CCS Division I playoffs with a solid 60-48 romp over visiting No. 15 Alvarez (12-13) on Tuesday night. The Bears (15-12) visited No. 7 seed Homestead (16-9) on Thursday night.
Menlo-Atherton overcame an early deficit and the loss of senior point guard Jeff Keller to an injury as junior Myles Brewer scored a career-high 21 points. Keller left the game early in the second quarter with the game tied at 15, after a collision under the basket left him limping off the floor. With Keller gone, others had to contribute and did. Along with Brewer, Nils Gilbertson added 14 points, 12 coming in the second half.
In a Division II opener, No. 10-seeded Gunn had its season end with a 57-54 overtime loss to visiting No. 15 seed Woodside (15-12) on Tuesday night. The Titans finished the year 12-13.
Each of the first three periods saw Gunn get basket-beater shots as Jonathan Rea hit a 35-footer at the end of one to give Gunn a 17-9 lead. Jack Hannan scored before half to make it 31-20 and Matt Redfield scored at the end of the third to give Gunn a 40-28 lead. Unfortunately for the Titans, Woodside's Sam Kelly made a three-pointer with four seconds left to tie the game at 48 to set up Woodside's win in overtime.
Gunn was led by Hannan and Travis Bowers with 12 points each, while Redfield and Rea added nine apiece.
Palo Alto remained unbeaten after two games following an 11-7 nonleague victory at Sequoia on Wednesday. Drake Swezey picked up the pitching win while Wade Hauser led a 15-hit attack with three hits, including a double and two RBI.
Castilleja opened its 2010 season with a 9-0 nonleague victory over host Del Mar on Wednesday as Gators' senior pitcher Sammy Albanese pitched a complete-game no-hitter and struck out 19. The Gators (1-0) had nine hits and committed only one error to open the season in fine fashion. Albanese helped herself at the plate with a triple and two RBI.