The Southern Section Masters wrestling meet lived up to its billing Saturday at Fountain Valley High, producing unpredictable results, crowd-thrilling matches in every weight class and even a dash of controversy.
But when the dust settled and the sea of upsets calmed, a familiar school stood tall among the wrestling giants of Southern California.
Santa Ana Calvary Chapel, two-time defending state champion, resumed its place atop the California wrestling scene after a rocky regular season started whispers about the Eagles falling from the ranks of the elite.
Joe Williams breezed through the 171-pound weight classunbeaten, Bryan Osuna finished second at 103 pounds and Mario Estrada was runner-up at 119 to lead five Calvary Chapel wrestlers to top-five .
The top eight in each class advance to the state championships, which begin Friday at University of the Pacific in Stockton.
It was quite a turnaround for Calvary Chapel, which did not win a tournament all season.
"Honestly, this kind of surprised me, too," Calvary Chapel Coach Joey Coughran said of his team's performance at the Masters. "But the tougher the tournament, the better it is for us. We've got some guys that can wrestle at a high level."
Williams appears to be wrestling at his own level. He pinned David De La Fuente of Northview in 1 minute 50 seconds in the final and had pins in 1:20 and 1:07 in the semifinals and quarterfinals.
"This is just a stepping stone for state," he said. "I'm feeling pretty good right now. I'm 100% confident and I have no doubts about what I can do."
Northview led all teams with six state qualifiers, including 160-pound champion James Clay, who escaped in overtime to win, 4-3, in his final against Josh O'Hara of Redlands East Valley.
Temecula Valley, Villa Park and Santa Ana had four state qualifiers.
The most notable upset occurred in the 140-pound semifinals when Buck Barger of Villa Park scored a two-point reversal with five seconds remaining to defeat Jeff Bristol of Temecula Valley, 6-4.
Bristol, ranked No. 1 in the state, had beaten Barger three times this season.
"It was about time I beat him," Barger said. "I felt it coming."
Barger's excitement turned to frustration and a controversial ending in his final against Danny Cadwallader of Cypress Brethren Christian. Cadwallader built a 6-2 lead after two periods and Barger, sensing an imminent loss, hit Cadwallader with a series of elbows to the head. He received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Barger said emotions got the better of him.
"I beat the guy I wanted to beat [Bristol], then lost to the guy I didn't want to lose to," he said.
Ricky Turk of Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World won the 135-pound final despite dislocating a finger in the first period. After a brief timeout, Turk continued and won, 20-4, over Tony Martinez of Arroyo Grande.