Raymond Lopez (Buchanan)
Lopez might not be a household name in California; however, he should become a familiar name after this past weekend’s performance, where he won the rugged Zinkin Classic. A backup last year to Jack Gioffre, a state runner-up, Lopez was triumphant last year in earning a medal at the third toughest tournament in the country, the Doc Buchanan tournament. The interesting fact about him placing there, was that he was down in that match (4-2) but was able to put his opponent on his back and obtain the fall to place. Lopez's path to the finals included defeating the Reno Tournament of Champions champion Ethan Perryman of Temecula Valley 15-8, before defeating state qualifier and then No. 2 ranked wrestler in California Dominic Mendez (Righetti) 9-3. Only a junior, Lopez has the potential to become a state champion in February and help Buchanan High win their fifth straight team state championship.
Timothy Levine (St. John Bosco)
A former Prep Nationals place winner and Fargo All-American, Timothy Levine, has always been a wrestler looping in the national rankings. Competing up a weight class (138), Levine captured a Zinkin Classic title despite being the No. 3 seed. After earning a fall and a 9-4 win in the first two rounds, Levine won a hard-fought 1-0 victory in the quarterfinal round over freshman Sergio Montoya (Clovis North). An escaped in the second round, was the lone point of the match. His quest for a title continued in the semifinal round were in overtime he snapped down his opponent and spun behind him to eliminate two-time Washington state champion Kyler Romero (Toppenish) 4-2. In the finals, Levine knockout league rival and state place winner Joshua Medina (Servite) 5-2 to win his first Zinkin Classic title. The real question here is if he will stay and 138 and force former Walsh Jesuit Ironman place winner Isaac Sala to drop down to 132-pounds?
Nicco Ruiz (St. John Bosco)
We all knew Nicco was one of the top incoming freshmen in California. However, we all thought for sure he would contend for a state title at 126 and not 152-pounds. Despite the big weight gain, Nicco has looked impressive in all tournaments he has competed this season. The only tournament where he looked like a freshman and failed to get on the podium was at the Reno Tournament of Champions where he went 2-2. Never a wrestler that doubts himself, Nicco displayed great technique as he worked his way to the finals in a fashionable way which included knocking out Reno Tournament of Champions runner-up Mario Danzi of Allen, Texas, 4-2 in overtime. His lone defeat of the tournament was in the finals to state place winner Noah Cortez (Dinuba) 5-3. Nicco’s story is unique as he will most likely sit down during the postseason as the 152-weight class belongs to the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country in Sonny Santiago. Nicco’s chance to shine at the state tournament will come next year after Santiago graduates.
Giano Petrucelli (Clovis)
For most wrestlers cutting weight is a way to find success. That might be the case for most wrestlers, except for Giano Petrucelli. Up five weight classes from 132-pounds last year, Petrucelli showed the entire crow inside the Buchanan gym why he would be a treat come February at 170s. He started the gates in dominating fashion as he pinned his first two opponents in a total time of 1:52 seconds before dispatching state place winner Nicolas Zavala (Mission Oaks) 9-1. In the semifinal round, he defeated the Reno Tournament of Champions runner-up Elise Brown Ton (Allen) 1-0 to become Clovis High's first finalist of the day. In the final bout, Petrucelli took on the No. 1 wrestler in California in Max Wilner (Fountain Valley) and won the match 3-2 in overtime. Petrucelli will attempt in February to become the 27th individual state champion for the Cougars.
Tyler Gianakopulos (Clovis)
The 195-weight class at the Zinkin Classic had a total of five state place winners and the No. 1, 3 and 4 wrestlers in California. Arguably the toughest weight to compete or win. As the No. 4 seed in the event, Tyler Gianakopulos was not expected to challenge for a tournament title as the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the state Guillermo Escobedo of Los Altos High was on the same side of the bracket as him. Nevertheless, what the critics thought or said of his chances did not bother him. He wrestled like never before and defeated Escobedo 3-2 thanks to an escaped point he earned in the third period of their match. Gianakopulos lost in the finals to Tristan Wilson (Servite) 4-3. As a finalist in one of the toughest tournaments in California, Gianakopulos has set himself in a great position to win an individual state title in February with the help of his teammates and coaches.