The list of accolades for wrestler Victor Pereira is gaudy.
He’s a four-time Mission Valley Athletic League champion, a three-time North Coast Section champion and is a state runner-up.
But, where does he rank on his school’s all-time list?
“He’s the best,” Newark coach Tim Hess said without hesitation. “For sure. We’ve never had a state-placer (Top 8) until he came. We’ve had some great wrestlers, but he’s the best.”
On Friday, the 160-pound Pereira will embark on a journey that has been a goal of his since his freshman season – winning a state title.
The two-day California Interscholastic Federation State Championships begin Friday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. It is considered one of the toughest state championships in the nation.
The Cal Poly-bound Pereira finished fifth as a sophomore at 145 and took second last year at 152 with a 9-5 loss to Santa Fe’s Joey Davis in the championship match.
Pereira enters the tournament with a 43-3 record and is ranked No. 3 in the state, according to www.thecaliforniawrestler.com. He opens with a match against Oscar Mendez of Alisal.
"Everyone is a threat,” Pereira said. “You have to prepare the same way. I don’t change my game too much.”
That record includes tournament wins at the Newark Ironman, Marty Manges, Doc Buchanan and the Albany Invitational. He took second at the Mission San Jose Invitational after he suffered a 4-3 loss to what has turned into his nemesis – Davis.
“I’m a little banged up. It’s been a long season, but it’s nothing serious,” Pereira said. “I’ve been training hard the last few weeks. It’s clicking. My head’s there. I’m doing what I need to do. I feel good, mentally.”
Clicking is right. Pereira has destroyed his competition the past two weeks. He blasted through the MVAL Tournament, where he became just the third wrestler in the history of the league to win four MVAL titles. The other two were James Logan’s Kirk Fitzpatrick (1999-2002) and Mission San Jose’s Mark Trice (1985-1988).
“He teaches me new stuff,” Hess said. “I never claim to know it all and never will. He’s always learning stuff. If you’re a high-level wrestler, you’re able to suck all the information out and incorporate it.”
At the section championships last weekend, Pereira went 5-0 with four pins in under 3 minutes and one 25-7 technical-fall victory.
The section tournament wasn’t always a piece of cake for Pereira. His first NCS Championships was quite a learning experience and humbling.
He entered as one of the favorites to finish in the top four and advance to state, but he suffered a setback in the semifinals – a loss to Wesley Young of Healdsburg that dropped him into consolation bracket.
Devastated that he couldn’t win a section title, Pereira would go on to suffer a 3-2 loss to Cody Stirm of Northgate to fall into the fifth-place match. That eliminated him from qualifying for the state championships. This loss came after he pinned Stirm in 5:46 two matches earlier in the championship quarterfinals.
“He did learn from that,” Hess said. “His freshman year he was disappointed. He lost a match and couldn’t re-focus. That was crushing and tough. That’s one example of him being disappointed and learning from it. Every year he’s progressed.”
Added Pereira about that freshman experience: “That loss in the semis was heartbreaking. The biggest thing I learned was not to think back after a loss.”
But there was a silver lining to that whole freshman experience. It was then he realized he had the tools to wrestle at the next level – college. And because of that, Pereira has continued to add to his repertoire. He could continue to do what works and continue to dominate the less talented wrestlers. Yet, he pushes himself to be a well-rounded wrestler.
“High school is not the end all for me,” Pereira said. “I need to have a balanced offense, on top and on bottom. I’ve slowly worked on that day by day.”
He had a long list of colleges at his door, but he chose Cal Poly for a number of reasons.
“It was a long, hard decision,” Pereira said. “I knew a couple of kids there. I like the coaches, the area and it was close to home. And financially, it was a good deal for me.”
Pereira is one of three Newark wrestlers who will be competing in Bakersfield. The other two are Jake Smith (126), who is ranked No. 8 and Jacob Pratt (138). Smith is a transfer from Virginia, where he won the 3-A state title at 119 pounds last year while at James W. Robinson in Fairfax.
Smith finished second at the section championships with a 5-1 loss to Joey Moita of De La Salle, who is ranked No. 6. Smith opens against Joshua Cortez of Temecula Valley.
Pratt took third at NCS with an 8-6 win over Nicolas Lang of Livermore in the consolation championship. He’ll open state with a match against the state’s No. 2-ranked guy Natrelle Demison of Bakersfield.
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