PREP WRESTLING: Bear River grapplers Smith, Canizalez headed to Masters | TheUnion.com

PREP WRESTLING: Bear River grapplers Smith, Canizalez headed to Masters

Brian Shepard
Special to The Union

Bear River senior Aidan Smith (182-pound weight class) will be making his second trip to the Masters Championships in as many seasons, and sophomore Ashlyn Canizalez (118) will be going for her first time.

When the dust settled Saturday, two Bear River wrestlers had punched their tickets to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships.

Senior Aidan Smith (182-pound weight class) will be making his second trip in as many seasons, and sophomore Ashlyn Canizalez (118) will be going to Masters for her first time.

Smith took fourth place in his 32-man bracket at the Section's Division V boys tournament last weekend, and Canizalez placed fifth in her bracket at the girls Regional tournament to earn her spot.

"It was overall a good day," said Smith, who went 3-2, including three pins. "I wrestled my butt off. I got the last spot so I barely made it. This year my mindset is just stay focused on the match that I have in front of me, one match at a time, one round at a time. Don't get that tunnel vision and focus on winning."

Last year, as a junior, Smith went 1-2 at Masters so this time around he hopes to go further.

"Staying calm, just going to talk to my dad, listen to my music, keep my head in the zone," added Smith, whose playlist includes Metalica, Five Finger Death Punch and Slip Knot. "Don't worry about winning or losing. No matter what I'm going to have a good time."

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Canizalez kept her postseason mission alive while reaching new heights for Bruins girls wrestling after some gutsy performances in wins over Colfax and Yuba City at her Regionals tournament in Natomas.

"I'm feeling pretty good considering last year I didn't even make it to day two of Regionals and this year I'm going to Masters," said Canizalez, who's only been in the sport now for two years. "I'm feeling pretty pumped. I knew what I was going for and I wanted it this year."

Canizalez's success on the mat has garnered lots of support and a bit of a fan club to go with it, no matter where the journey leads her.

"There's some ladies in the office coming down (to Masters)," added Canizalez. "My mom, my uncle, a few friends of mine, my coaches obviously. My uncle was in the coaches corner last weekend."

There's no place to go but up for the young sophomore and Bruins' head coach Kevin Figueroa knows it.

"She has improved tremendously since last year," said Figueroa, who noted her 30-9 record on the season. "Every one of her opponents and every one of her matches she has been right in the heat. She has two second place finishes (No Guts No Glory, Sac Town) and two firsts (Sutter, Albany)."

Smith will hit the mat for Bear River Friday and Saturday at the boys Masters at Delta College in Stockton and be looking for a top eight finish to advance to State. Canizalez will try and wrestle her way to the state tourney Friday and Saturday at the girls Masters at Lincoln High School (Stockton) where she'll need a top six finish to advance.

It's a win or go home mentality played out in double elimination format with the most elite competition from all over the Section.

"You have two opponents, they both want to win," explained Figueroa. "But in the middle of the match there's one that really wants to win and the other goes, 'You know what? This guy wants it more than me. I'm OK.' He'll break and he'll say, 'OK, my season is over.' And he's OK with it, mentally. So when we're wrestling this weekend, they have to mentally break their opponent to get to that perspective."

Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.

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