SAN JOSE — After reaching the summit, Christian Cabuag looked to the stands, pulled back on his imaginary bow and let an arrow fly in the direction of his Monte Vista Christian teammates and coaches nestled high in the overflowing crowd at Independence High.
He wasn’t trying to be the Green Arrow, Legolas or Hawkeye.
He was trying to be brave.
“You know that movie ‘Brave?’ I’m brave,” said Cabuag, referencing the 2012 Disney-Pixar smash hit. “I’m here, and I’m wrestling to be No. 1. You have to be brave to do that.”
The sophomore Mustang was definitely brave in dire moments.
He was No. 1 at the end of the night, too.
M.V.C.’s star wrestler scored a bit of redemption from last year’s runner-up finish on Saturday night by holding off dangerously focused Palma sophomore Zak Thompson, 9-7, for the 113-pound Central Coast Section crown.
“This is a redemption year for last year,” Cabuag said. “I got really close last year, and I said to myself, ‘this year is going to be mine.’”
It would be hard to argue against that. Cabuag holds a 35-5 overall record, and was ranked fifth in the state at 113 pounds in The California Wrestler’s most recent rankings.
He’ll try to live up to that ranking in the California Interscholastic Federation Wrestling Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Feb. 21-23.
Cabuag went 2-2 at state last year, but he and his coaches fully expect to compete for a high spot on the podium this time around.
“His goal is to be a state champion and get to the finals, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” said M.V.C. associate head coach Armando Gonzalez Jr. “That’s what he wants, and he can go do it if he commits to it.”
Cabuag won’t be the lone wrestler from the Pajaro Valley to make a trip to the Central Valley. Six from the area made the cut.
Cabuag’s teammates Amman Klair and Nate Fernandez qualified for the state tournament with third-place finishes in their weight divisions. Klair, a senior, beat Palo Alto’s Braumon Creighton, 4-2, in the third-place match at 145 pounds, and Fernandez, a sophomore, scored a pin over Carmel’s Olandis Mathes in the third-place match at 220 pounds.
Aptos first-year head coach Rudy Guzman was ecstatic to also send a trio of wrestlers to state. Seniors Alex Zacarias and Marcos Reyes fought their way through the consolation bracket on Saturday to secure third-place finishes on the boys’ side, and junior Camila Barranco earned a fourth-place finish on the girls’ side.
Zacarias, who at last managed to put together a healthy season after breaking his wrist as a freshman and junior, lost his first match of the tournament on Friday, but rebounded with seven straight wins to advance, including a victory by pin over Half Moon Bay’s Fernando Diaz-Marquez in the third-place match at 106 pounds.
Reyes, meanwhile, stunned Gonzales’s Antonio Viorato, the No. 2 seed in the 182-pound division, in the third-place match by scoring a pair of points over the last minute and change.
Barranco clinched her spot at state with a narrow 7-6 bounce-back win in the consolation semifinals over North Salinas’s Martha Alvarez.
“I’m pretty darn proud of all three of them,” Guzman said.
His hopes for state?
"I'm going to keep the same philosophy I've had all year," he said. "Just out there and have fun and kick butt."
The Mariners’ boys’ didn’t do too shabby as a team either. Aptos, which missed out on winning the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League team title a week ago, impressively finished 12th with 81.5 points.
M.V.C. took seventh with 95.5 points.
Gilroy, led by UFC heavyweight champion and first-year head coach Daniel Cormier, won its 17th straight CCS title and broke its own record for points (377) by producing nine champions and three runners-up.
Menlo-Atherton ran away with the girls’ title by scoring 221.5 points. Half Moon Bay was a distant second with 170.
The boys’ 113-pound final was one of only two boys' championship matches on the night that did not feature a Gilroy wrestler.
Cabuag cruised through the bracket leading up to the final, spending all of three minutes on the mat over his first three matches.
But things were different against Thompson, who gave just about everything he had in an attempt to beat Cabuag for the first time in four tries this winter.
His attempts nearly worked, as a take down and near fall in the second round gave Thompson a 4-3 advantage and drew a loud ovation from the couple thousand in attendance. But Cabuag kept calm and worked his way back to a 7-5 lead heading into the third round.
A late takedown in the final frame clinched it.
“I remembered about the work we do in practice, how I push myself more and more so that in scenarios like that I don’t feel scared,” Cabuag said. “I kept my composure, and did what I do best.”
Which is being brave.