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Heavy Hitters: Wrestlers ready for state’s biggest, best

March 01, 2007|By MARIO RENTERIA, Sports Editor
  • CUAUHTEMOC BELTRAN PHOTO Imperial Highs Sammy Cervantes (left), Southwest Highs Jacob Jones (center) and Imperials Cameron McNeer practice for the state championships Wednesday in Imperial.
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They’re big, but they carry even bigger hopes. Sammy Cervantes and Cameron McNeer from Imperial High, Jacob Jones from Southwest High and Angel Romero from Central Union High are the only four wrestlers in the Valley outside Brawley to qualify to the state tournament in wrestling.

All four wrestle at least 189 pounds and all four will rumble in Bakersfield, in their respective weight categories, Friday and Saturday.

The four qualified to state by placing in the top four at the CIF-San Diego Section Masters tournament Saturday in San Ysidro.

McNeer, a 17-year-old junior, had the highest placing of the four, finishing second at 189 pounds.

He lost to Robin Peak, a senior from Mountain Empire High of Pine Valley.

“I knew I could have won that finals match,” McNeer said. “But I started stalling and it didn’t work out.”

Reaching state has been a gradual process for McNeer, who didn’t place at the CIF-San Diego Section Division IV championships his freshman year. He finished third at CIF his sophomore year to qualify for Masters but didn’t place.

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Knowing he still has another shot at the state tournament, McNeer will take this year as a learning experience.

“I’m not as pressured as I would be next year,” McNeer said. “I’m still going to try and do the best I can. It’s really, really, really exciting.”

McNeer’s teammate, 17-year-old junior Cervantes will join him in Bakersfield at the heavyweight category.

“It should be a tough tournament,” said Cervantes of state. “It won’t be an easy tournament at all — it will be tough.”

Cervantes qualified by finishing third at Masters after losing to Trent Smith of Rancho Buena Vista High in the semifinals and beating Nick Wood of Poway High in the consolation match.

“I’m not satisfied with it,” said Cervantes of Masters, “but at the same time, every thing happens for a reason. You just have to come back next year and work even harder.”

Cervantes reached Masters his freshman year after finishing second at CIF. His sophomore year, Cervantes also finished second at CIF but didn’t place at Masters.

After qualifying to his first state tournament Cervantes feels confident.

“I’m actually excited. I’m not nervous at all,” Cervantes said. “I know I’ve trained well enough to do well at this tournament.”

Jones, a 17-year-old senior at Southwest, is one of two El Centro wrestlers who will test their skills at state.

The 189-pounder finished fourth at Masters after losing to Sean Hill from Poway.

“I was satisfied. I think I could have done better, but I’m satisfied that I get to go to state,” Jones said.

Jones, who transferred to Southwest from Imperial his sophomore year, didn’t wrestle his freshman or sophomore years, sticking to basketball.

Last year, he had to drop out of the CIF tournament after breaking his finger the day before. He tried to wrestle but couldn’t finish his first match.

“I was disappointed because I couldn’t finish,” Jones said. “I had to forfeit.”

Knowing this will be his final crack at the state title, Jones is excited.

“I want to see how I can do,” he said.

Romero, a junior, finished third at 215 pounds after beating Jacob Wagaman from Fallbrook High. Romero wasn’t available for comment at practice Wednesday but is heading to his first state tournament as well. He captured the section title in Division III last month in Ramona.

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