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O.C. Small School Co-Athletes of the Year: Calvary Chapel's Justin and Jeremy Thomas
All eyes were focused on Calvary Chapel’s Thomas brothers as they attempted to end their high school wrestling careers by winning state titles.
It had been their top goal entering their senior season.
It nearly didn’t happen.
The schedule had been adjusted so that the brothers would wrestle in the final two matches of the night at the CIF State Wrestling Championships, with Justin (160 pounds) going before Jeremy (170).
Justin was on the verge of losing, but he scored a late takedown as time expired in the third period against Buchanan’s Abner Romero. He then scored a takedown with seven seconds remaining in overtime to win the title.
“I’m still trying to soak it in now,” Justin Thomas said recently while thinking back to that March night in Bakersfield. “In the moment, it was hard to digest it all. Now that it is over and I’m starting to heal up, you realize the great things that happened this season.”
Jeremy said he was “drained” from watching his brother’s match when he took the mat that night.
He was wrestling his close friend, Anthony Mantanona of Palm Desert, and trailed most of the way. With time running out in the third period, he was behind, 10-6, but he pulled off a stunning rally to win by fall.
“I don’t even remember half of the match,” Jeremy said. “It was such a blur.”
As the twin brothers had dreamed about for years, they had become state champions together.
For their achievements, Justin and Jeremy Thomas have been selected as the Register’s Orange County small school boys co-athletes of the year.
“This wasn’t just for us, it is for everyone that supported us and helped us win state titles,” Justin said. “Coaches, parents, workout partners, younger guys in the room … We’ve had a great support system, and we’re grateful to be in this situation.”
They began wrestling when they were five years old. At eight, they were competing against each other in the final of the 58-pound division at the Reno World Championships.
This season, they both finished second at the Walsh Ironman and Doc Buchanan Invitational, two of the nation’s toughest tournaments.
Justin was first at the Five Counties Invitational and claimed league, CIF-SS and Masters Meet titles. He finished the season 28-2.
Jeremy won league and CIF-SS titles. He went 29-3.
They both finished the year ranked sixth in the nation, and they both signed to wrestle at Oklahoma starting next fall.
Justin finished high school as a four-time state medalist; he recorded fourth-, third- and second-place finishes before winning the title.
Jeremy’s title capped a difficult road where his determination and perseverance was repeatedly tested.
“My freshman year, it was a tough year,” he said. “I struggled transitioning to high school wrestling. Sophomore year, I tore my LCL and I didn’t get to wrestle the postseason. That was heartbreaking. I didn’t get on the podium (at state) until my junior year, and at Masters I tore my labrum. I ended up taking third at state.
“I rehabbed, worked hard and I had one goal: to win state. That was all I would think about every day.”
The brothers don’t have to think about it any more; they did it.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Justin said. “But it was an amazing ride.”
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