The state of high school wrestling in Tulare County looks very promising for the upcoming 2012-13 season and into the future.
Eight of the 14 wrestlers selected to last year's Times-Delta/Advance-Register All-County wrestling first team were underclassmen. Seven of the 14 second-team wrestlers were also underclassmen, meaning there are a lot of talented wrestlers returning.
One of those wrestlers is Redwood junior Joey Cisneros, who has established himself as one of the top wrestlers in the state at his weight class.
Cisneros ranks fifth in the state at 106 pounds according to The California Wrestler. He is coming off a season in which he posted a 47-10 record, won six tournament titles, finished fourth at Central Section Masters and was a state qualifier.
But it is his offseason schedule that has elevated him to elite status. His high school coach Dave Watts said Cisneros won five state titles in his age group last spring. He competed at every major national tournament, taking third in folkstyle, fourth in Greco Roman and finishing in the top 12 in Freestyle.
"He's a lifelong wrestler, so this is nothing new to him," Watts said. "He's always won in wrestling. We expect him to have a great year."
Cisneros isn't the only Tulare County wrestler expected to do big things.
Here is a look at some wrestlers to keep an eye on:
Mason Pengilly, Porterville: The reigning Times-Delta/Advance-Register Tulare County wrestler of the year posted a 39-4 record as a junior and finished fifth in the state at 113 pounds. He is expected to make the jump to 120 pounds this year, and may even see some time wrestling at 126 pounds.
Michael Wright, Dinuba: As a freshman, Wright went 30-12, qualified for the state tournament and earned first-team All-County honors at 160 pounds. He is in the middle of trying to help lead the Emperor football team to a Central Section Division III title, and it may take him a while to get into top wrestling form. Once he does, expect him to have an even better season.
Arnulfo Olea, Exeter: Wrestling at 113 pounds is the only thing that kept Olea off the All-County first-team last year because he lost to Pengilly at the state tournament. He still placed eighth at state, earning a state medal for the second time.
Delano Hendrix, Mission Oak: As a junior, the 120-pounder had a solid season, just missing out on qualifying for the state tournament with a 10th place finish at Central Section Masters. He placed third at the Dinuba Invitational, and sixth at Yosemite Divisionals.
It is way too early to determine what is going to happen as far as league championships are concerned, right?
The race for the West Yosemite League team championship is really a one-team race with Lemoore as the clear frontrunner. The Tigers have won 18 straight league titles, and number 19 seems all but a formality.
The Tigers just have too much firepower led by returning two-time state champion Isaiah Martinez.
Second place is a very good consolation prize for the remaining six WYL teams.
"We'll definitely compete for second place," Watts said. "Lemoore is out of everybody's reach, and they have a few additions to their lineup that people don't know about yet. It is going to be tough to beat them."
In the East Yosemite League, Porterville seems primed for a fourth-straight championship.
The Panthers had three wrestlers qualify for the state tournament last season, and all three of them are back.
Porterville should receive some tough competition from Monache and Mission Oak, but the Panthers are going to be tough to take down.
The Hawks lost a couple of All-County first-team selections to graduation, but Hendrix and sophomore Danny Alvarado were second-team selections and are expected to improve this year.
Tulare County Rankings
For the sake of discussion, here are the top five teams in Tulare County:
1. Porterville. 2. Exeter 3. Monache. 4. Redwood. 5. Mission Oak.