Wrestling: Tucker captures gold, Rio Hondo 9th at state championships

Khalil Tucker closed out his Rio Hondo career by winning a state championship. (Photo by David Sanborn/CCCAA)
Khalil Tucker closed out his Rio Hondo career by winning a state championship. (Photo by David Sanborn/CCCAA)

Led by an individual state title by sophomore Khalil Tucker, the Rio Hondo College wrestling team totaled 48 points to finish in ninth place overall at the 2019 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championships in Fresno on Saturday.

"I'm really proud of our team and coaches this year," said head coach Mike Tellez, who's led Rio Hondo to six consecutive top-15 fininshes at the state championships. The Roadrunners' ninth-place team finish was the program's best since a seventh-place showing at the 2011 state championships.

Tucker went a perfect 3-0 to win the 133-pound state championship while sophomore Christian Espinoza placed second at 141 pounds, and sophomore Andy Voong was fifth at 197.

Tucker, the South's No. 2 seed, advanced to the state final after a narrow 3-2 decision over Owen Jones of Santa Rosa Junior College in the quarterfinals and a pin of North No. 1 seed Louie Bravo of Fresno City College at the 6:22 mark.

Facing Houston Scibek of Modesto Junior College in the championship final, Tucker was able to get a two-point takedown seven seconds into the match. He was then penalized a point for clasping his hands, and after a Scibek escape, it was a 2-2 match after the first three minutes. Starting the second period down, Tucker scored a reversal for a 4-2 advantage, but was then penalized another point for stalling after receiving an earlier warning. The lead changed hands in the third period when Scibek got an escape point and takedown for a 6-4 lead with 1:15 remaining. The lead didn't last long, as Tucker used his lean frame to get around Scibek for a reversal and then rode him the rest of the way for the tie-breaking and championship point.

Tucker became Rio Hondo's first state champion since 2017 when James Schmidt captured the 157-pound title.

At the 141 weight division, Espinoza rolled to three consecutive victories to reach the state final. He opened with a 15-1 major decision over Trenton Edalgo of San Joaquin Delta, beat Raul Ortiz of Santa Ana College 14-10, and picked up another major decision (17-6) against Victor Valley College's David Ortega in the semifinals. 

Espinoza faced a familiar opponent that he had already beaten twice this season, Cerritos College's Isaiah Mora for the state championship. But it was Mora's turn to come away with a win. Trailing early, Mora scored six straight points to take a 6-2 lead early in the second period. That scoring streak also included a two-point near fall in the first period. However, Espinoza pulled to within 8-6 before the end of the second period with a two-point near fall of his own. It was 8-7 just three seconds into the third period, with both wrestlers looking for what could be a championship takedown. Both took their shots, but it was Mora who scored with one second remaining to earn the championship.

Voong went 2-2 at the tourney, including a major decision victory in the fifth-place match to close out his weekend. He opened with a 7-3 win over Patrick Slatic of West Hills College but lost by fall to eventual state champion Jack Kilner of Fresno in the semifinals. In the consolation bracket, he lost by fall to Hunter Gonzalez of Sierra College, but recovered with an 11-1 major decision against Slatic to earn fifth place.

2019 CCCAA Wrestling State Championships (Photos by David Sanborn/CCCAA)