Four years ago, Sean Yamasaki joined the Dos Pueblos High boys wrestling hoping to do some big things in his career.
The goal for the young man was the same as everyone — win a league title and try to chase that CIF and State glory.
Only, Yamasaki thought his first chance at a varsity league title would come in a couple of years, not a couple of months.
Yamasaki handled it with grace, however, and won a Channel League title in his first season at DP.
Four years later, on Saturday, Yamasaki accomplished a goal only he and his father have ever achieved in program history, winning a Channel League individual title for the fourth consecutive season.
“It feels great, it kind of feels like a big weight has been lifted off my chest,” Yamasaki said with a huge smile.
“I don’t really have to worry about it anymore. There’s no more pressure to follow in his footsteps. Now is just me doing my thing and hopefully making run at state.”
Looking back at his four-year run, Yamasaki has seen a lot of success but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine winning a Channel League title as a freshman, let alone win four years in a row.
“Being on varsity as a freshman was kind of overwhelming and just winning league seemed like a big accomplishment itself at the time but now just being able to win it four times in a row, it’s been really fun. I’ve had a great time,” Yamasaki said.
“I don’t think I ever saw myself being this good so it’s been a blessing.”
Just as the senior won his fourth league title in a row, he defeated a freshman’s hopes of being able to do what only three people have done in Channel League history.
Yamasaki clinched his fourth consecutive Channel League crown by defeating Cabrillo’s Alex Davidson by a pin in the second round in the 134-pound weight division.
His next journey begins next weekend at CIF, where he hopes to place to advance to the Masters.
“The top five advance to the Masters so I just want to be in there. Hopefully, the upper half of that but anywhere in those top five is awesome,” Yamasaki said.
“I have been working hard on mastering my craft over these past four years and hopefully, it just kind of all accumulates to some good victories at CIF, Masters, and state.”
While Yamasaki was used to the luster of being at the top of the Channel League, there were a handful of athletes that just got their first taste of that experience on Saturday.
One of those wrestlers was Santa Barbara High’s Brandon Lazcano.
The junior had dominated at the 108 weight class all season and on Saturday, solidified his spot amongst the best, winning by fall against San Marcos’ Levi Cooper.
“I am just happy because I worked hard for this and I know hard work pays off,” Lazcano said.
“I am pretty happy to advance to CIF. I placed there last year, so I think I could do it again.”
Other winners on Saturday are as follows: in the 115 weight class, junior Armando Contreras of Santa Ynez, in the 122 weight class, senior Richard Castro-Sandoval of Santa Ynez, in the 128 weight class, senior Brennan Akley of DP, in the 140 weight class, senior Oscar Munoz of Santa Barbara, in the 147 weight class, junior Gracen Hayes of Lompoc, in the 154 weight class, senior Connor Lee of DP, in the 162 weight class, senior Oscar Phillips of DP, in the 172 weight class, senior Patrick Durham of Cabrillo, in the 184 weight class, sophomore Angel Martinez of Cabrillo, in the 197 weight class, junior Jorge Huerta of San Marcos, in the 222 weight class, Corbin Hayes of Lompoc, and finally, in the 287 weight class, junior Jose Rodriguez of Santa Ynez.
All top three finishers in each weight class advance to CIF with fourth place being an alternate.
All top three finishers also stand on a podium and are celebrated in front of teammates and fans.
That is a usual tradition on the boys side, but the girls side finally got a taste of that this year, much to the surprise of Santa Barbara’s Al’Asha Aparicio.
“It was really cool that they put the spotlight on us,” Aparicio said.
“I just felt like they really cared.”
Aparicio won her second-straight Channel League title Saturday, defeating DP’s Kaelani Butler in the 113 weight division.
“Honestly, I’m pretty proud that I’ve just made it this far,” Aparicio said.
“I never thought I would be here just because usually a lot more attention is paid to the boys, which makes sense, but they finally realized what they could do with me and its cool.”
When Aparicio started wrestling four years ago, she was the only girls wrestler at Santa Barbara High.
Even then, she never once thought about quitting and continually pushed herself. As a sophomore, she made it to CIF, becoming the first girls wrestler in school history to accomplish the feat.
“Honestly, it was my team and my coaches. They really pushed me and they just made me love the sport even more,” Aparicio said.
At that time, there wasn’t even an individual title for the girls. The first individual title for the girls was held last year.
“I mean, it’s still growing of course and I hope it continues doing so.”
Isabel Regalado is another wrestler who continues growing the sport in the right direction. The Dos Pueblos sophomore won her first Channel League title, winning the 118 division.
“I felt great. I was nervous at first but I just went back and put trust in my wrestling ability,” Regalado said.
Earlier this year, Regalado did girls every justice by taking on a boy during a dual match between DP and Santa Barbara High.
The sophomore didn’t win but she is chomping at the bit to get her next chance.
“I just love to wrestle and I feel like I am down to wrestle anyone. I have some regrets from that match, I should’ve trusted my wrestling more, but I will fight another boy again, no doubt about it,” Regalado said.
Another fellow sophomore, this one from Cabrillo High, is also happy to just see the sport growing on the girls side.
Lydia Monedero won her second consecutive Channel League title, winning the 152 weight class.
“It’s awesome and I am loving seeing all the girls and how they are growing,” Monedero said.
Having an MMA background and with her father being a wrestler in high school, Monedero said her wrestling in high school was a no brainer.
Without a doubt, however, Mondero is happy seeing more girls joining wrestling.
“I think it’s freaking amazing. I think it’s so cool just to see how big it’s gotten and we even got a spotlight this time,” Monedero said.
“I really just want to see more girls join, I would just love to see that.”
Other winners on the girls side are as follows: in the 103 weight class, freshman Natalie Sanches of DP, in the 108 weight class, sophomore Jillian Brodeur of Cabrillo, in the 123 weight class, senior Stephanie Esparza of DP, in the 128 weight class, senior Miiya Adames of Cabrillo, in the 133 weight class, sophomore Fiona Cate of DP, in the 139 weight class, Destiny Burke of Cabrillo, in the 145 weight class, junior Julia Esparza of Cabrillo, in the 162 weight class, senior Maria Isa Silva of DP, in the 172 weight class, sophomore Yoanna Esquivel of Lompoc, in the 191 weight class, sophomore Alessandra Urquilla of Santa Barbara and, finally, in the 237 weight class, freshman Avery Manko of Cabrillo. All wrestlers will advance to CIF.