San Marino, the Little Wrestling Power That Could, made another indelible mark on the sport recently, winning two individual weight class championships and finishing sixth overall out of 276 teams that assembled in Bakersfield for the 2016 CIF State Championships.
Twin brothers Zander and Evan Wick – both seniors – finally grabbed the gold ring from the merry-go-round, winning the 145 and 152 lb. weight classes, respectively. Both made it to the championship match a year ago and punched through in 2016, earning “a week off.”
“It was really great, fantastic,” said Zander Wick, who said he started feeling the effects of the flu the day before the finals. “The feeling is amazing. After getting so close and finally getting that championship, it’s great.”
Zander Wick ran a straight line through the 145 lb. weight class, earning a 15-0 technical fall over Skyler Huskey of El Dimiante High School in the first round. He picked up a 10-5 win over David San Miguel of Bellarmine Prep in the second round, then pinned Beau Bradley of Monache High School in the quarterfinals.
Zander then earned a 3:19 pin over Peyton Omania of De La Salle before hanging on for an an 8-5 victory over Selma’s Ruben Garcia in the championship match.
“He was tough,” Wick said of Garcia. “Very quick and strong, but I knew I could shut him down and ride him out. At the end of the third period, I was ahead 8-3 and he reversed me to make it 8-5 but I was able to hang on for the win.”
Evan Wick barely broke a sweat in winning the 152 lb. weight class, needing just 39 seconds to pin Todd Alexander of Elk Grove in the first match. Evan then gained technical decisions – which occur when one wrestler gets a 15-point lead over his opponent – in dispatching of Ricky Gonzales of Bakersfield (17-2), Noah Blake of Del Oro (17-2) and Brandon Martino of Clovis (16-1). Wick ended the season and his sparkling career with a 38-second pin of San Marcos High School’s Jett Moy in the championship match and avenged his 4th-place finish a year ago.
For his trouble, Evan Wick was given the David Schultz ‘Champion of Champions’ award, significant of his outstanding, dominant performance. Adding to the prestige of the award: competing wrestlers vote for the recipient.
Senior Julian Flores, San Marino High School’s defending State champion, was derailed in his effort to repeat at 138 lbs. Flores blistered his way through the bracket until he met Jacob Wright, a junior at Dinuba High School, who claimed a 3-2 triple-overtime victory.
In the consolation round, Flores topped Bobby Miguel of Clovis West before Joel Romero of Buchanan beat him 10-2, dropping the Drexel-bound grappler to third place.
Flores suffered a badly injured nose during the tournament, but defended his championship gamely.
“It was very tough for Julian,” said San MarinoHead Coach John Azevedo. “He wrestled well and fought hard, but just couldn’t get a point when he needed one in that quarterfinal match. Julian was pretty beat up and I give him a lot of credit.”
Flores had major shoulder surgery a year ago that required a seven-month recovery, but was in good form at the end of the season.
“It was still a good year for Julian and he will be wrestling in college next year.”
Junior Zander Silva took 7th place in the 126 lb. division, getting three quick wins that included a quick pin of Clovis’s Brandon Rhoads. Silva earned consecutive 8-0 wins over Alexandro Lanza of San Jose Benicia and Alberto Garcia of Hilltop High School in San Diego.
Silva absorbed his first loss of the tournament, a 6-2 decision in the quarterfinals to eventual champion David Campbell of Mission Oaks High School.
Silva got a win in the consolation round before a 3-1 loss to Devan Turner of Hilltop High School landed him in 7th place.
Senior Aaron Padilla took two straight losses at 160 lbs. and didn’t place.
San Marino loses nine seniors from one of the best squads in school history. Aside from Flores’ offer from Drexel, both Wick brothers have accepted scholarship offers from Wisconsin, a Big Ten wrestling power.
“They had great years,” said Azevedo. “They only lost one time and that was back in Ohio at one of the toughest tournaments in the world against the top ranked wrestlers in the country. They just kept rolling and gaining confidence. They had a great summer last year at some very good tournaments and they just rolled. They were both healthy this year, which also helped.”
Azevedo called it “storybook” seeing the twins win their first state championships in a matter of just a few minutes.
The Titans graduate nine student-athletes, but the future still looks good for San Marino’s wrestling program.
“We have a lot of kids coming back next year, so I feel we will be OK,” said Azevedo, who has now coached 13 state champions. “If we can get kids interested at a younger age, we will be in good shape.”
The Wick Brothers have wrestling in their blood. Their father, Bill Wick, won a sectional championship as a high schooler in Ohio, the approximate equivalent of a CIF Masters title. Wick was a 132 lb. champion for Springboro High School and later wrestled at Muskingum College. He looks like he could still compete.
“It’s hard to sum this all up,” said Wick. “I am very proud of them. They are two of the hardest working kids out there. This is something they wanted to do, they set their mind to it and they got it done.” The elder Wick credited Azevedo and his blue chip coaching staff “for making this all possible.”
“John is incredible,” Bill Wick said of Azevedo. “He is an amazing coach. Every year up to this year they have improved and I am glad they were able to reach the pinnacle.”