Four local boys head
to state meet after
Lee wins girls' title
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 sophomore Grace Robinson (118) and senior Jessica Sun survived three rounds each before being eliminated. Sun received the Pursuing Victory with Honor Award for the 138-pound division.
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.
Only two other female Gunn athletes have won state titles in any sport (Ruth Graham in cross country in 2001 and Tori Tyler in track and field in 2005).
Lee's title came on a day that saw the Gunn wrestling team make some school history with the success at both meets.
Gunn brought nine wrestlers to the CCS Championships and all nine won matches. Four Titans earned medals while finishing among the top four — Cramer, Lydster, Papp (third at 120) and junior Stephen Martin (fourth at 182).
Papp went 5-1 with four pins and scored 24 points. Cramer went 4-1 with two pins and also scored 24 points. Lydster went 4-1 with one pin, scoring 22 points, while Martin was 5-2 with two pins and 20 points.
Gunn's other entrants included Ian Cramer (2-2 at 132), Blaze Lee (1-2 at 145), Dino Soto (1-2 at 160), Harsha Mokkarala (1-2 at 220) and Eric Calderon (1-2 at 285).
Having two wrestlers in the finals was a first for the Titans, who wound up finishing sixth in the team standings. Had Lee been able to compete in the boys' CCS meet, Horpel believes his Titans most likely would have finished in the top three in the team standings, tying their highest finish ever in 1973.
"This team is arguably the best wrestling team that Gunn has ever produced," said Horpel. "They proved it by winning the toughest league in the CCS and by placing so high in the CCS Championships without Cadence Lee.
"But, the season is not over. We have the boys' state (championships this weekend) in Bakersfield and we have three qualifiers who are really excited for that meet."
Along with Hohbach, who went 5-1, teammates Erik Anderson (4-2 for fifth at 170) and Andrew Frick (4-2 for fifth at 195) just missed out on the trip. The Vikings finished 21st in the team scoring.
"The highlight of the weekend was Gary Hohbach's overtime win (sudden victory) in the third-place match," Duran said. "He set a goal for himself to become a state qualifier after a disappointing league finals last season. Our coaching staff is always extremely satisfied when our wrestlers reach their goals. It is a long road to get there."
Hohbach was one of four Paly seniors at CCS. The others were Alex Taussig 0-2 at 220), Jordan Smith (0-2 at 113) and Anderson. Other Paly entrants includes James Giaccia (1-2 at 106), Eric Oshima (1-2 at 138) and Jordan Gans (2-2 at 160).
"In what has been a challenging season for us, having three section placers and a state qualifier — not bad," said Duran. "Most schools in the section would take these results every year."
Menlo-Atherton was led by Josh Buttram (3-2 at 195) while Austin Wilson was 1-2 at 126, Sam Stroud was 1-2 at 152, Donald LaHaye was 1-2 at 170 and James Smith was 0-2 at 160.