This is not the end.
Redwood's Isaiah Torres made that quite apparent by winning his second consecutive tournament title Saturday at the Central Valley Invitational hosted by Golden West High School. His 3-1 overtime win over Clovis' Dylan Martinez in the 113-pound finals came as the second of three individual championships won by Ranger wrestlers, all of which came in the three lightest weight classes.
Two other Rangers finished second. Another pair took third as Redwood placed second overall despite its depleted roster.
"All their hard work is paying off," Watts said. "I'm proud of the guys. This is not the end. This is just the beginning. They look ready."
Torres sat out the first half of the season for health reasons while fellow Ranger and 113-pounder Sammy Pena finished second and third at the Dinuba Invitational and Redwood Invitational. But when Torres returned to compete at the Mission Oak TRUE WRESTLER Invitational on Jan. 21, he -- not Pena -- was listed as the team's A-wrestler for their shared weight class. Torres validated the coaching decision by beating Pena 8-2 in the Mission Oak finals and 4-0 in Saturday's semis.
If his sudden splash onto the wrestling scene caught anyone by surprise, the secret is now out. The consecutive titles speak for themselves, loud and clear. If anyone is still not convinced, his coach expects there to be plenty more shouting.
"His scrambling was good. His technique was good. He was in good position all day," Watts said of Torres' performance. "I've coach Isaiah a long time. When he wrestles like that, he's unbeatable."
Joey Cisneros (106), who was named as the tournament's outstanding wrestler, started the Redwood run by pinning Clovis Western's Bryce Morita at the 3:32 mark in the lightweight final.
Both wrestlers entered the match ranked by The California Wrestler, giving testament to the tournament's significant increase in quality this year. The 10th Central Valley Invitational featured 20 wrestlers ranked in the Central Section, 12 of whom are also ranked at the state level. Golden West head coach Richard Sanchez estimated this as a 70-percent increase from year's past.
"Most of these A-teams weren't here the last couple of years," Watts said. "This was the toughest I've ever seen this tournament by far. It's a good one-day tournament. You don't see this type of competition at a one-day tournament."
Watts speculated that wrestlers such as Morita came this year because they needed to see Redwood's talented roster before the postseason. Beating No. 5 Cisneros (No. 3 in the Valley) would have been a huge boost to No. 38 Morita (No. 11 in the Valley), but the pin only further solidifies Redwood's ace among the state's elite -- just don't tell that to him.
"Some people try to hype it up, but I don't like to," Cisneros said of his statewide attention in the rankings. "Just one match at a time. I don't like to be called the star."
Darrion Harris (120) captured the Rangers' third individual title with a 6-4 decision over Clovis' Matt Czeshinski, who he defeated with a 15-5 major decision in the Redwood Invitational final.
Woodlake's Nate Mesa (182) was the only other Tulare County wrestler to win his class. His victory was rather anticlimactic, however, as it came via an injury default by Selma's Nick Diaz. The matchup would have featured two wrestlers ranked in the Valley's top 10.
Golden West's Paul Hansen (152) and Tulare Union's Ray Figueroa (285) each placed fourth after being forced to forfeit their third place match by a rule prohibiting any wrestler from competing in more than five matches on a single day. The rule affected eight third place matches and every fifth place match.
Figueroa upset El Diamante's Brendan Salazar in the consolation semifinals. Salazar, who came in ranked No. 10 in the Valley, was projected to face No. 11 Robert Barrios (Sierra Pacific) in the finals.
Fellow Miners Jacob Delgado (113) and Enrique Padilla (160) also placed fourth. They were two of five El Diamante wrestlers to lose in the semifinals. Delgado lost to Redwood's Pena 2-0 in the third-place match. Padilla beat Tulare Union's Daniel Fletcher and Golden West's Dillon Bennett on his way to the consolation finals.
Redwood's Aaron Watts (126) and Abraham Meza (220) each finished second. Alex Rivera (106) and Pena each finished third in weight classes won by their teammates.
The Rangers finished with 152.5 team points, second behind only Clovis with 217.5 and ahead of Hoover with 136. The next highest finish by a Tulare County team was 12th place by El Diamante (64), followed by Golden West tied for 13th (58.5), Tulare Union in 15th (39), Redwood B in 16th (38), Woodlake in 19th (32), Tulare Western in 22nd (9), Dinuba in 23rd (6) and Farmersville tied for 26th (0).
"This was a tough tournament," Watts said. "That's why I'm really impressed with how we did because we had some stiff competition. We didn't have our full roster. If we had all those guys, we could have given Clovis as run for their money."
Blake Marple, who won the 160-pound weight class at Mission Oak and finished third at the Redwood Invitational (170), sat out sick as the most significant missing piece for the Rangers.
Redwood has one final West Yosemite League dual against Mt. Whitney on Wednesday before hosting the WYL tournament on Feb. 9.
"These guys are just ready," Watts said. "I don't even know what else to say."
In other words, this is just the beginning.