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Kunkes Quietly Makes Way to Stockton Mat

Wrestling: Simi Valley heavyweight places fifth at Masters meet and qualifies for state championships.


FOUNTAIN VALLEY — One can never tell by watching Dan Kunkes whether he is winning or losing a wrestling match. His calm demeanor hides a fierce desire to win.

On Saturday, the senior from Simi Valley High displayed plenty of desire and placed fifth in the heavyweight division (275 pounds and over) at the two-day Southern Section Masters meet at Fountain Valley High.

Kunkes finished with a 5-2 record and qualified for the state championships next weekend in Stockton.

By virtue of two first-round pins on Friday, Kunkes was one match away from a state berth before he set foot in the gym on Saturday. An hour into the competition, he found himself one loss away from elimination after a grueling 3-2 loss to eventual finalist Troy Carter of Yucca Valley.

"I was ahead, 1-0, with a minute left and I just got tired," Kunkes said. 'But that loss didn't bug me. I've worked too hard not to reach my goal, which was to go to state. I knew I wasn't going to lose my next match."

In the first round of the consolation bracket, Kunkes faced Anaheim Loara's Jose Hernandez. In the double-elimination format, a victory guaranteed Kunkes a top-eight finish and a trip to the state finals. A loss meant going home empty-handed.

Kunkes fell behind, 1-0, before rallying for a 4-1 victory, earning two points for a takedown, one point on a stalling violation by Hernandez and one point on an illegal hold.

Kunkes defeated Santa Maria Righetti's Matt Tesoro, 3-0, and lost to Torrance's Chase Gormley, 3-1. David Hazell of West Torrance defaulted in the final consolation round to give Kunkes fifth place.

Ralph Garcia of Camarillo qualified for the state meet, finishing sixth in the 189-pound weight class. The defending section Division IV champion defeated Brian Carroll of Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills, 7-6, in the quarterfinals, then faced Covina Northview's Chris Lopez, the 171-pound state defending champion.

Neither wrestler scored a point in the first period, but Lopez elected to start the second period on the bottom and quickly escaped for a point. He added two points on a takedown, which aggravated a shoulder that became sore after the quarterfinal. Garcia was unable to mount an attack in the third round and lost, 5-1.

Garcia (43-6) forfeited his fifth-place match so he could rest his shoulder for the state meet.

Rio Mesa's Caleb Bautista secured the eighth state berth at 125 pounds, outpointing Joe Ortiz of Westminster La Quinta, 7-5, and Julias Dang of Alhambra, 6-2, before defeating Greg Mizutani of Montebello Schurr, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.

Bautista (33-12) lost to Mike O'Hara of Redlands Valley, 7-4, in the semifinals and to Shawn Haratani of North Torrance, 2-1, in the seventh-place match.

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