Calvary Chapel's Justin Thomas reacts after defeating Buchanan's Abner Romero during the finals of the 160 weight division match during the 2016 CIF Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Saturday

Calvary Chapel's Thomas brothers realize dream with state titles


BAKERSFIELD – It was the perfect and sweetest ending for Calvary Chapel’s brother duo of Justin and Jeremy Thomas.

Justin Thomas (160) needed a late takedown as time expired in the third period to force overtime in his 160-pound final match against Abner Romero (Buchanan). In overtime, Thomas scored a takedown with seven seconds remaining for a 5-3 victory to win his first CIF State wrestling title.

One match later, Jeremy Thomas (170) appeared to be headed to second-place finish as he trailed Anthony Mantanona (Palm Desert), 9-4, entering the third period.

To his credit, Thomas managed to fight his way back into the match and eventually won by fall in the third period (5:27) to complete the Thomas’ dream of going out together as state champions at the Rabobank Arena on Saturday.

“By that time, I was just wrestling,” Jeremy Thomas said of third-period comeback. “I had no game plan. I just went out there (in the third period) and gave it my all. I didn’t leave anything behind. This feels unreal. I’m on cloud nine.

Thomas trailed 10-6 before he got a takedown and turned Mantanona for near-fall points. Moments later, the referee called the pin.

“Ever since middle school and watching the wrestling state tournament, coming up every year watching it,” Jeremy Thomas said. “We’ve worked so hard for this and this moment.”

Jeremy Thomas dropped a narrow decision to Mantanona at last week’s CIF-SS Masters Meet. He scored the first takedown this time around and led 4-3 in the second period. Mantanona closed the second period with a takedown and three-point near fall to go up 8-4 into the third.

“We’ve worked so hard in the room, trusting our training and never giving up,” Jeremy Thomas said.

That’s the best way to describe his brother’s performance. Justin Thomas, who had a fourth, third and second-place finish in his previous three years, remained calm in the face of adversity throughout his match with Romero.

“I kept the pressuring going, I thought in my head that I’m never out of the match,” Justin Thomas said. “Just keep pushing and pushing and I’ll get it. I kept calm, pressured forward.

“Since we were little kids, this was our goal and our hard work paid off.”

Calvary Chapel had two other medalists with Luciano Arroyo (113) and Morris Wilner (182), finishing seventh and sixth, respectively. As a team, Calvary Chapel finished fifth in the team standings, the best among all Southern Section schools.

For the second consecutive year, Servite’s Liam Cronin came up short in the finals, this time losing by fall to Ethan Leake (Buchanan) in the 113-pound match. The end came in the first period.

“He came out trying to get things to go,” Servite coach Alan Clinton said. “He knew the guy was going to passive. He was trying to get him to move and open up, trying to make things happen. He just got caught, head and arm.”

He lost in the finals last year to St. John Bosco’s Cade Olivas.

“I had to console him down, but it will be OK,” Clinton said. “This is just one phase of his life. These things happen, you just have to get ready for the next phase that comes along.”

Ethyn Ewing (Canyon) was eighth at 138.

San Clemente’s Tyler Meisinger, who entered the tournament ranked fifth in the state, finished fourth at 152 pounds. Trabuco Hills’ Lukas Howa was sixth at 170.

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