Nicholas Perez
Hughson wrestler Nicholas Perez earns spot in second State Meet

Hughson’s Nicholas Perez was in a tough spot. He knew it and so did his wrestling coach, Joey La Rosa. With only 10 seconds left in his consolation quarterfinal match at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet on Saturday in Stockton, Perez trailed 1-0. He needed to score quickly or his season would be over.

Perez set up his Placer High opponent and then unleashed his signature move – a “pass by” – that enabled Perez to score a critical two-point takedown.

“It definitely was a little nerve-wracking,” La Rosa said. “Nicholas was close the entire match and he finally was able get the kid’s legs and kept him inbounds.”

The victory assured Perez (44-9), a junior who competes at 152 pounds, of a second consecutive appearance at the State Meet, which begins Thursday in Bakersfield. Perez lost both his State Meet matches a year ago.

Perez wrestled seven times in Stockton, winning four of his matches. He lost to the eventual champion, Brokton Borreli of Los Banos, in the quarterfinals and then had to fight his way through the consolation bracket to finish sixth. The top six wrestlers in each weight class at the Masters Meet qualified for Bakersfield.

Perez has 24 pins and has won four tournaments this season. He will face another junior, Coen Quintana of Dinuba, in the first round Thursday afternoon. Quintana is ranked 11th in the state at 152 pounds.

La Rosa said he will give Perez some hands-on coaching this week during practice. A former State Meet wrestler himself, La Rosa is just 23 years old and still in reasonable shape.

“I’m definitely not as agile as Nicholas,” admitted La Rosa. “I’ll tell him not to hurt me.”

What kind of expectations are reasonable for Perez this week?

“I think to try to win a couple of matches and put himself in a spot to win a medal, that would be awesome,” La Rosa said. “We’re super proud of him. He’s not happy with finishing sixth last week, but qualifying for state as one of the top 40 in his weight class puts him in the top 1 percent of wrestlers in California.”

Hughson sent three other wrestlers to Stockton last week, but Perez was the only one to move on.

Cooper Thornsberry, a senior 140-pounder, went 2-2 and was eliminated on the first day.

“He wrestled hard, but came up short,” La Rosa.

Landon Mason, a 108-pound freshman, and Daniel Vasquez, a 195-pound senior, both qualified and lost their two matches.

“One’s a freshman and the other started wrestling three months ago, so that’s pretty good,” La Rosa said.