Because he was several minutes late for a weigh-in, Niko Chapman was disqualified last year from a chance to wrestle in a divisional tournament whose top finishers vie for slots in the California state championship.
Rather than give up, Chapman used the incident as motivation – and the Inderkum High School sophomore will be on the mat tomorrow, competing in the 152-pound weight class, when the prestigious state tournament kicks off in Bakersfield.
“When that happened last year, it was kind of encouragement to work hard and not let it happen again,” said Chapman, who qualified for the state meet last week by finishing fifth in the section Master’s meet after previously capturing league and division titles.
Chapman was the lone survivor among four Natomas Unified School District wrestlers vying for a state bid last week. Two Inderkum teammates also competed in the Master’s tourney – senior Ruben Escalante, 126-pound weight class, and junior Isaac Mendoza, 220-pound class. Natomas High School junior Juan Ramirez Jr. wrestled in the 285-pound class.
Chapman is pleased but not overwhelmed by his success. He often trains about four hours a day. “I’m confident in my training,” he said. “I think I’ve worked hard enough that I can compete with any wrestler in the state.”
Qualifying for the state meet is fine, but it’s not his ultimate goal. “I’ve been wrestling since the seventh grade, and going to state is not necessarily a dream but an expectation,” he said. He wants to be state champion by his senior year.
Asked what makes Chapman such an outstanding wrestler, Coach August Wesley did not hesitate. “Work ethic,” he said. “Niko does what he’s asked to do. He doesn’t question it, just puts his head down and gets it done.”
Chapman’s participation in the state meet caps what Wesley hails as a “record breaking season” for the Inderkum Tigers wrestling squad, led by Escalante, 41 victories; Chapman, 40 wins; and Mendoza, 31, wins. The Tigers broke 11 school records, including qualifying for team sections competition. Eight Inderkum wrestlers were league finalists, four were league champions, and three – Chapman, Mendoza and Escalante – were division champions.
Wesley, a second-year Inderkum coach, credited athletic director Matt Hinton for helping the wrestling team build a solid foundation. “I’m super proud to be part of the team,” Wesley said. “The kids work so hard to achieve their individual and team goals. We have a mandatory study hall which has helped our team earn a 2.91 overall grade point average … Student comes first in student-athlete and our kids showed that this season.”