By Lee Gordon
BAKERSFIELD — They’re all about paying it forward in the Oak Ridge wrestling program. And judging by the payouts on the medal podium, it’s a system that commands respect.
Trojan junior Keaton Subjeck added his name (again) to the list of Oak Ridge wrestlers to place in the Top 8 at the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships, securing fifth place Saturday at Rabobank Arena.
He has learned from the great wrestlers who came before him at Oak Ridge, and his success is sure to lead others to great things if they follow.
Subjeck finished 5-2 in the 160-pound bracket, losing to the third and fourth-place wrestlers, and that improved upon his eighth-place finish last year. His first loss, which came Friday, was hard to swallow but he took lessons learned from previous teammates and his own experience, gathered himself, and trudged on in the carnivorous consolation bracket.
Zach Claiborne (182) also competed for Oak Ridge, finishing 1-2.
“I could have been in the semifinals but I didn’t let it affect me. People can go downhill in a hurry when they lose a big match in a tournament like this,” Subjeck said.
Leading Clovis’ Adrian Salas (Central Section No. 1 seed) by a point in the final minute of his quarterfinal match, Subjeck made one of his few mistakes and it cost him dearly. With Salas squirming away from his control, Subjeck allowed Salas to reverse for the lead instead of escape for the tie and a possible different outcome. Still, he didn’t let the loss eat away at him.
“I went after him right from the start, I know the best way is to be aggressive. Attack, attack, attack, attack but things didn’t go my way. It was frustrating,” Subjeck said. “I stayed calm, I didn’t let the arena and lights and noise get to me. A lot of people get freaked out.”
He fought right back from the loss by blasting Winters High wrestler Trevor Wright (Northern Section No. 1 seed) to guarantee a spot in the medal rounds despite an aching shoulder from an injury Friday. Subjeck aggressively shot for a double-leg takedown early, gave up a reversal, then escaped before racking up another takedown near the end of the first period. Two go-behinds for takedowns started the second and third periods, respectively, and that built plenty of cushion for Subjeck in the 11-5 victory.
A 41-second pin of Steele Canyon’s Brady Beamon (the San Diego Section No 1 seed) followed, then a 6-3 loss to McNair’s Jim Wilson, the same wrestler who beat Subjeck in the Sac-Joaquin Section final last week in Stockton — dropping him to the fifth-place match against Healdsburg’s Matthew Tsarnas (North Coast Section No. 3), and Subjeck throttled him 7-1 with aggressive attacks in the neutral position.
“I watched him wrestle as a kid and I was really excited to coach him one day,” Trojan coach Casey Rhyan said. “Not letting that loss affect him was huge.”
Subjeck’s achievement is just another in the long list of Trojans to medal at the state meet, most recently Vince Waldhauser, Kyle West, Kavon Tillotson and Nick Rohrer.
“Keaton had Waldhauser and that helped him learn how to prepare,” Rhyan said, referencing the mental rigors of competing in the state tournament. “Keaton leads by example. It was good for Zach to see Keaton lose that heartbreaker. As a coach you can tell them but until they see their friend live through it, it won’t set in.”
Subjeck plans to take a week off before beginning training again, possibly for Nationals. And, he’s counting on returning to Rabobank next year for a shot at the state title match. He’ll choose which weight class based on how he feels, not on who’s out there.
“I don’t run from people, I go with what I feel I wrestle best at,” Subjeck said.
Claiborne, a junior who placed fourth in the section, lost his opener to Mason Kumashiro of Los Alamitos (Southern Section No. 7), 18-16, then beat North Coast section champion Conor Young of College Park 17-6 before bowing out with a 9-6 loss to Jordan Sepeda of Natomas, who beat him at the Masters tournament last week.
“He (Claiborne) got a lot of experience. He hasn’t been a hardcore wrestler but it showed him he could be here again and be a top guy,” Rhyan said. “I was proud of Zach because he battled. It’s a different level of wrestling here.”