The right State of mind: Kainrath, Del Oro ready for top CIF wrestling meet

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Dylan Kainrath knows what to expect this time.

Making a repeat visit to the CIF State Meet Friday, the 170-pound Del Oro junior is ready for the big stage this time around. 

Last year Kainrath was one of two Golden Eagles to qualify for the prestigious high school wrestling event. He went 2-2 but struggled at the start because he was intimidated by his surroundings.

“My first match, I was really scared of what was going on with how many people were there and who was watching me,” said Kainrath, who will be competing in the two-day State Meet this weekend along with four of his Del Oro teammates. “I didn’t really know what to expect because everyone was older than me. I’m just trying to get over that and hopefully do better in my first match and keep it going from there.”

Kainrath believes the atmosphere at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield can be a little overwhelming to newcomers.

“When you get out there, seeing all the mats and the people you might get a little bit of stage fright your first time,” said Kainrath, who has been inspired to work harder this year in hopes of placing at the State Meet. “Maybe in my second time I’m kind of used to it so I know what to expect.”

Joining Kainrath at the two-day tournament are fellow junior Isaac Blackburn (103 pounds), freshman Clay Shropshire (113), sophomore Zach Ruybal (120) and senior captain Johnny Zieour (145).

The group represents the largest one Del Oro has sent to Bakersfield since sending seven in 2007. 

“It’s really nice to have your teammates come with you because then you have support with a group of guys you’ve worked with all year to be there with you,” Zieour said. “I think we should do really well. We’ve been working all year toward this goal. Now that we’re here it’s time to show the rest of California what we’ve got.”

Coach Dave Sanchez said despite the various age ranges of his wrestlers, they all get along well because of Zieour’s leadership.

“Johnny’s a fantastic leader,” the coach said. “He motivates other guys, and encourages them. Our team has freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors all on the same team. If you see them hanging out together you can’t tell the difference. That’s part of our leadership from the captain, making sure the team gets along. As a senior, encouraging the freshmen, it really gives them confidence.”

On paper, Ruybal has the toughest draw of all the Eagles, facing Mason Pengilly of Porterville in the opening round.

“He’s going to try to place this year,” Sanchez said of Ruybal, “but he’s got the No. 1 guy in the state first (at 120 pounds). But one guy is not going to end your season. If he places that’s great, if he doesn’t he doesn’t.”

Nonetheless, Sanchez likes his wrestlers’ chances at the meet.

“I’m optimistic we’ll have guys in the second day,” he said. “To get all five would be something else. It would be outstanding.

“… Anything can happen. It doesn’t matter what you’re ranked. It just matters how you wrestle.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter@matthewkimel