Heading back to Bakersfield
For the fourth straight year, Oak Ridge senior Keaton Subjeck has qualified for the state wrestling tournament.
Joining Subjeck this year will be freshman teammate Brandon Claiborne, who is following in Subjeck’s footsteps as the only freshmen from Oak Ridge to qualify for the state tournament. Brandon’s brother, Zach, a senior, also qualified, but will not compete because of an injury suffered in the semifinals of the Masters Tournament.
For the second straight year, Subjeck placed second at the Masters Tournament, this year losing the finals of the 170-pound weight class to Oakmont’s Peter Santos, 10-0. Last year Subjeck lost 5-2 in the 160-pound division to McNair’s Jim Wilson.
The loss to Santos aside, Subjeck is proud to be a four-time state qualifier.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Subjeck said. “I remember qualifying as a freshman and how happy I was. It’s gone by pretty fast.”
Subjeck won his first three matches of the tournament easily, before pulling off a 3-1 win over Escalon’s Johnathon Costa in the semifinals.
As a freshman, Subjeck failed to place at state, but took eighth as sophomore and was fifth last year. He hopes to continue his string of improved finishes this weekend.
“That’s exactly what my goal is this year,” Subjeck said. “Of course, I’d like to win it, but I definitely want to do better than I did last year.”
Besides getting stronger and becoming a more experienced wrestler, Subjeck has also learned how to better handle himself in the big meet in Bakersfield.
“I’ve learned to calm myself down,” Subjeck said. “My first couple of times were nerve-racking. All the lights and mats in a big arena … I was frozen out on the mat my freshman year. I’ve learned to cope better. Confidence is a big thing. I believe I deserve to be there and that helps a lot. I’ve done all the hard work and I deserve to be there and achieve my goal and I can.”
Subjeck, no doubt, has some good advice for Brandon Claiborne, who as a freshman will be making his first trip to the big meet. Claiborne won his first two matches in the 138-pound weight class before being knocked down to the consolation bracket following a loss to Central Catholic’s Joey Abbate.
“I was discouraged a little bit after the loss, but Coach (Rhyan) told me to not worry about it,” Claiborne said.
Claiborne opened his wrestling Saturday with a pin over Folsom’s Mason Koshiyama.
“That was a big win because he lost to Koshiyama last week by 13 points,” Rhyan said. “This time the match was tied at four and Brandon got a reversal and pinned him late in the match.”
After losing to Giovanni Murrillo of Bret Harte, Claiborne needed to beat Eric Richards of Woodland to qualify for the state tournament. Claiborne did so easily, pouring it on in a 17-0 technical-fall victory.
“I was pretty happy,” Claiborne said. “I wanted to place higher, but I’ll take seventh place.”
Rhyan added, “That was probably his best match of the tournament. He really wanted to qualify for state.”
Subjeck was glad that Claiborne qualified along with him.
“I haven’t talked to him yet about the state tournament, but I knew he could qualify if he believed in himself,” Subjeck said. “I definitely wanted him to make it.”
As a freshman, Claiborne doesn’t have any specific goals for this weekend.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Claiborne said. “I’m just going to try my hardest and see what happens.”
Brandon’s brother, Zach, placed sixth at 182 pounds, but suffered an injury against Franklin’s Joey Banks in the semifinals and defaulted to sixth place.
Claiborne pinned his first opponent in 53 seconds before pulling a big upset in round two against Vacaville’s Chris Lai. He then defeated Jordan Davis of River Valley before losing a close match to Banks.
“It’s a shame,” Rhyan said. “He beat Lai, who’s ranked something like fifth in the state, and I really thing he could have done something at the state tournament.”