There is no other high school athletic event in California like the State Wrestling Meet at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
The state meet is the dream, the ultimate goal, of every wrestler who takes the mat. Like the state track and field meet, every student/athlete there earned the right to get there. Every wrestler at the state meet qualified by being a winner, and in most cases a champion, in their league, CIF Division and CIF Section.
The difference between track and wrestling is the atmosphere.
Rabobank is an arena and the atmosphere is awesome. The PA announcer is fantastic. She is the best that this reporter has heard at any high school event.
Two Ramona wrestlers participated in the state meet last week and they were in awe of the event. They both want to return. Spaso Ilich was the CIF champion and Brodie Chenowth was the Masters champion.
“We went up on Thursday but it really didn’t set in until we got into the warm-up room and there were about 300 people there and every one of them was a stud,” said Chenowth.
On Friday both wrestlers took the mat.
“I didn’t sleep much, but I felt good after weigh-ins,” said Chenowth. “I felt nervous and very excited before the first match. I felt horrible after losing 9-7 and I felt worse after losing 5-4 in the second. I lost the second bout on a penalty point. When you get to the state meet, you can’t make mistakes and I made too many. The competition there is too good to make an error.”
In a journal Ilich kept for the Sentinel, he wrote, “We weighed in at 7 a.m. and then we ate at the 24th Street Café. The best café in the world. Wrestling started at 9 a.m. When I walked into the arena I realized that I was in the biggest tournament of my life. I won my first bout 9-7 and my second by fall in the first period. That put me in the quarterfinals of the state. I lost by decision to the wrestler who ended up taking third. I am down, but I have another day left.
“The same routine as Friday. Weigh-ins at 7 and wrestling at 9. I have to win the first match to place in state. I lose by a decision and end up being in the top 12 wrestlers in the state in my weight class and have nothing to show for it (no medal). It was awesome being in the arena with all of the state champions. That trip makes me want to return to Bakersfield next year and be one.”
“Spaso and Brodie had a great season and any time you end your season at the state meet you have accomplished something epic,” Ramona wrestling coach Steve Koch said after his return from Bakersfield. “We had a young team that really improved this year. We took five wrestlers to the state meet in 2002. If we work hard and continue to improve, we have the potential to take five or more to the state meet next season.”