The intense stares from across the mat during introductions said it all; it’s the The Big One.
Buchanan, the 3-time defending state champs, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 3 in the nation versus Clovis, ranked No. 6 in the state and No. 13 in the nation.
It’s more than a dual, it’s an extravaganza complete with fireworks, students waving glow sticks and chants shouting back and forth that resemble a 1940s high school basketball game.
Add in 18 total wrestlers ranked within the state’s top ten and you have one of, if not the top high school wrestling dual, on the West Coast.
“It’s fun, it’s an event,” Buchanan director of sports Troy Tirapelle said. “It’s grown every year and it’s a show for the fans and for both schools—it definitely gets the adrenaline going.”
With close to 2,000 energetic fans surrounding the giant mat in Buchanan’s gym, the Bears dominated the Cougars 44-16 as the Bears won 10 of 14 matches.
The marquee match of the evening belonged at 128 pounds, pitting Clovis senior Brandon Paulson, ranked No. 2 in state, against Buchanan’s Maximo Renteria, the super sophomore ranked No. 1 and defending state champ.
Renteria would win in a third-round pin, setting off a wild celebration.
Buchanan’s Matthew Olguin, signed with Fresno State, registered a win at 162 over Mikelli Chiaramonte in a fall.
Clovis High’s Jacob Good, ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 1 in the section at 197, started off the event with a 13-5 win over Branden Cardwell.
Good, signed to wrestle at Arizona State next year, was pleased with his win yet disappointed with the team’s overall performance.
“It’s not the way I want to go out,” Good said. “I wanted the score to be a little closer but it is what it is. We just have to get back out there and work.”
However, for Good, the experience of the rivalry is exhilarating.
“I love it, it’s like nothing I’ve ever been a part of,” Good said. “You have to be here to experience what it’s really like.”
In the 108-pound match, rising star, and state No. 2, Jack Gioffre of Buchanan dominated Matthew Terrence 12-3 in a major decision.
“This is a blast, a great event,” Gioffre said. “Before the year I wasn’t expecting to wrestle in it, but now that I have it’s a pretty awesome experience.”
In the final match of the night, Clovis junior Tyler Gianakopolus at 184 pinned Buchanan’s Caden Rodgers in the second round.
“The last two years I wrestled at this event I didn’t do very well and lost,” Gianakopolus said, ranked No. 6 in state and No. 3 in the section. “It was cool coming back as a Big Dog and feeling like I could beat anybody. Getting a pin was awesome.”
The event did have an eerie feeling—it was the first year since 2008 that Clovis did not suit up a wrestler with the last name Nevills. The four brothers, Seth, Nick, AJ and Zach, won a combined nine CIF team titles and six CIF team titles from 2009-2018.
After the dual, Tirapelle was most impressed with two wrestlers that actually lost—Cardwell, a senior, and junior Zane Rix to Kade Campbell at 287.
“I know a lot of what we are getting with our kids, but one that has made a drastic strides was Cardwell,” Tirapelle said. “He almost didn’t give up a major to one of the best in the state [Good] because he fought and is buying in to what we are doing.”
The other was Zane Rix, who struggled early in the year with a bad habit of almost getting pinned every match, according to Tirapelle.
“But he’s tough, works hard, and is ornery; everything we can work with,” his coach said.
Tirapelle, who’s brother, Adam, is a Cougars coach, figured Clovis would get at least ten or 12 points in those two matches, but only got seven.
“That’s our win,” he said. “Even though we didn’t win those matches we won the actual battle because of how many points that could have gone out.”
The Masters Championships are Feb. 15-16 at Lemoore and the CIF State Wrestling Championships are Feb. 21-23 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
197: Jacob Good, Clovis, d. Branden Cardwell, MD, 13-5.
220: Jadon Martin, Buchanan, d. Frederick Sayles, MD, 16-6.
287: Kade Campbell, Clovis, d. Zane Rix, 4-1.
108: Jack Gioffre, Buchanan, d. Matt Terrence, 12-3.
122: Kyler Lake, Buchanan, d. George Rosas, 5-0.
128: Maximo Renteria, Buchanan fall over Brandon Paulson, third round
134: Logan Gioffre, Buchanan, d. Giano Petrucelli, 4-3.
140: George Ruiz, Buchanan, fall over Nick Martino, second period
147: Tyler Deen, Buchanan, d. Scott Hokit, 9-2.
154: Max Anderson, Clovis, d. Reymundo Raiz, 4-3.
162: Matthew Olguin, Buchanan, won by fall over Austin Frantzich, first period.
172: Rocco Contino, Buchanan, d. Mikelli Chiaramonte, 12-6.
184: Tyler Gianakopolus, Clovis, won by fall over Caden Rodgers, second period.