By Bill Tamburrino
Few travelers have a primary goal of making a trip to Bakersfield, Calif. For high school wrestlers, however, Bakersfield is the goal of every athlete who pulls on a singlet.
Devin Rhodes made the trip to Bakersfield last year with four other Bulldog wrestlers and wanted a return engagement this year. The road there was not an easy one.
Rhodes had a tough struggle and had to overcome adversity, but he battled in the Masters Meet last week to earn his second trip to the State Wrestling Meet in Bakersfield.
Rhodes (170) received a first-round bye and then cruised into Day 2 by beating Ricardo Moriel of Mar Vista 9-0 and then beating Connor Anderson of La Costa Canyon 14-1. He entered Day 2 in the championship bracket.
Rhodes knew that Day 2 would be a challenge. Two of the state’s top ranked wrestlers were in Rhode’s weight class: Poway’s Connor King, who won the Masters Meet, and Central Union’s Josh McFadden, who finished second. King was ranked second in the state early in the year and was ranked fifth last week. McFadden, who beat King in a tournament, was ranked third last week.
Rhodes has achieved a stellar 49-8 record this season and five of his losses came at the hands of King (2) and McFadden (3). He knew that making it to the State Meet for the second time would be a tough task.
“Some wrestlers in my class (170) moved down and some moved up. I considered moving down to 160 but I felt stronger at 170 so I decided to stay at that weight,” he said.
Rhodes opened the second day of competition facing McFadden for the third time this season. McFadden won a 5-0 decision. Rhodes had to battle back in the consolation bracket. He beat Nick Lucio of El Cajon 9-0 to earn a shot at third place and another trip to Bakersfield.
Rhodes recorded a pin over Josh Herman of Grossmont in 3:09 to win a bronze medal and a trip to the State Meet this week.
When asked if making it to the State Meet twice was the fondest memory of his high school career, Rhodes had a surprising answer. “Being a member of the CIF team championship last week was a much bigger thrill. It was a team accomplishment and we have worked and wrestled as a team all year. We were young at the beginning of the season, but we worked hard and matured into a CIF championship.”
Coach Steve Koch had words of praise for his team captain. “Devin is a quiet, even-keeled leader. He never gets too high or too low. He has been an excellent captain and leader. His leadership was a major factor in our young team maturing into a CIF champion.”