Fallbrook High School junior Lorenzo Garcia closed out his junior varsity wrestling career with a fourth-place finish at the San Diego JV County Championships meet Feb. 2 at Mount Carmel High School.
Garcia, who wrestled in the 152-pound division, won his first three matches of the tournament – which were also his first three wins of the season. Garcia struggled with academic eligibility earlier in the season and did not compete in a match until Fallbrook’s Jan. 31 dual meet with Vista, which was a loss for Garcia.
“To do as well as he did in JV championships with such little mat time under his belt was very significant and awesome to watch,” said Cristian Vera, who coaches Fallbrook’s freshman and junior varsity teams.
Academic issues, along with injuries and the prohibition against wrestling in both the junior varsity championships at the CIF tournament, limited Vera to three wrestlers: Garcia, Gauge Musso, and Wenchi Chen. The Warriors’ adverse fortunes continued at the weigh-in when Chen, who normally wrestles in the 120-pound class, was 3/10 of a pound above the maximum weight for that division. Musso wrestled in the 126-pound bracket, and the tournament did not allow a school to have multiple wrestlers in the same weight class, so Chen was forced to compete in the 132-pound division. “He had a pretty tough tournament,” Vera said. “He actually did exceptionally well.”
Chen’s first match was a 6-4 loss. He was pinned in his second competition but not until the third period.
Because Chen is an exchange student from China, the pin was his final match for the Warriors. “The fact that we could even get him in the JV county championships was a really big deal,” Vera said. “It was amazing to watch, so I was very happy to see Wenchi do so well.”
Chen had minimal English skills when he arrived at Fallbrook High School, although his command of America’s language improved during the year. “This kid is just awesome,” Vera said.
Musso is a freshman, so the JV tournament allowed him to obtain extra matches for the freshman county championships the following week.
Although wrestling tournaments have a double-elimination format, a large number of entrants in one weight class may lead to an alternative “pigtail round” for first-round losers. The one-day tournament and the CIF limit of five matches per day for a wrestler caused the 126-pound division to utilize the pigtail round. Wrestlers in the pigtail round are not eligible to place, and their tournament concludes regardless of whether they win or lose in the pigtail round.
Musso was relegated to the pigtail round after a 9-6 loss in his first-round match. “He wrestled a pretty tough kid,” Vera said. “For him not to get pinned against a guy who was seeded at JV, being a freshman, was a good thing.”
In the pigtail match Musso ended his tournament competition by pinning his Valhalla opponent in the second round. “The Valhalla match was probably Gage’s best match he ever wrestled,” Vera said.
The 152-pound bracket also had a pigtail round which would have kept Garcia from placing in the tournament. “I really stressed that on Lorenzo,” Vera said.
Garcia is a junior, so this year was his last opportunity to compete for a county championship at the JV level. “I really stressed it on him the importance of every single match,” Vera said.
“He really took it to heart,” Vera said. “The first three matches he tore it up.”
After pinning his first opponent in the second period of the match, Garcia then took a six-point victory over a Mira Mesa grappler. “It was an awesome match, very, very good match for Lorenzo,” Vera said.
Garcia then pinned his third opponent. “He was fairly dominant the entire match,” Vera said. “The other guy had no chance the whole time.”
Although winning his first three matches guaranteed Garcia placement in the top six, his fourth match was against a La Costa Canyon matman who had wrestled varsity tournaments earlier in the year. “Lorenzo just kind of got the luck of the draw on him and got caught,” Vera said.
If a wrestler is ahead by 15 points a technical fall is awarded, which is how Garcia lost his semifinal match. That put Garcia into the consolation final against the same Mira Mesa wrestler he had defeated earlier in the tournament, but the Marauders’ matman had his revenge. Although Garcia led in points for much of the match, a takedown in the final seconds gave the Mira Mesa competitor a victory by two points. “Lorenzo had a really good match. He made a little mistake,” Vera said.
“He finished fourth and that was a really big deal, especially with Lorenzo,” Vera said. “He had a great tournament in my opinion.”