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California wrestler Daniel Zepeda named SBLive national champion at 138

Daniel Zepeda set himself apart at the Flo’s and went on to win a second straight CIF state championship
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Gilroy's Daniel Zepeda won a California state title as a sophomore and followed that up with a silver medal at last summer’s Junior Freestyle Tournament at Fargo, losing to Iowa’s Ryder Block. Wins over No. 11 Jack Nelson (Westonka, MN), No. 15 Hunter Hollingsworth (Edmond North, OK), and Omar Ayoub (Dublin Coffman, OH – No. 18 at 144) were achieved at Fargo.

That Fargo performance garnered Zepeda an invitation to Flo’s Who’s No. 1 showdown where he encountered No. 2 Bo Bassett (Bishop McCort, PA). Zepeda hit another gear during this match, and it was stunning to see Bassett controlled in such a manner and eventually pinned.

At the 2023 Flo’s Who's No. 1 event Daniel Zepeda dominated Bo Basset of Bishop McCort (Pennsylvania), ranked No. 2 in our final national rankings, building an 18-7 lead before pinning him with 33 seconds remaining in the third period.

At the 2023 Flo’s Who's No. 1 event Daniel Zepeda dominated Bo Basset of Bishop McCort (Pennsylvania), ranked No. 2 in our final national rankings, building an 18-7 lead before pinning him with 33 seconds remaining in the third period.

Zepeda was not content to coast through the season, so the junior challenged himself by moving up a few weight classes to 150-pounds for a chunk of the season. Predictably, Zepeda had a few missteps when giving up weight to national caliber wrestlers.

The Mustang placed third at the Reno Tournament of Champions and fourth at the Doc Buchanan Tournament. At both events he lost to EJ Parco (Los Gatos, CA – No. 17 at 150). Zepeda’s second loss at Doc B was to Laird Root (Poway, CA – No. 8 at 150).

When the Mid-Cals rolled around, Zepeda was beginning his descension back down in weight, claiming the 144-pound championship with a 5-2 win over Beau Hickman (Tuttle, OK – No. 15 at 144).

For the California postseason, the Gilroy Grappler was back at 138 and downed No. 4 Paul Kelly (Poway) in the finals.

Bassett is a former World Champion and has won seemingly every title known to a wrestler in his age range. After getting tripped up by Zepeda, the sophomore went on a run that has not seen him taste defeat since.

Bassett’s second high school Super 32 belt came on the strength of an 11-0 major decision of Sergio Vega (Sunnyside, AZ – No. 4 at 144) at 132lbs. Before the season got underway, Bassett entered the Clarion Open College Tournament and claimed the 133lb crown with a 13-10 win over Pittsburgh’s Anthony Santaniello.

A second Ironman title was next on the agenda for the Crusher, and he did that by beating Ayoub in the 138lb final. Bassett downed No. 13 Charles Curtis (Massillon Perry, OH) and No. 14 Billy DeKraker (Blair Academy, NJ) while at Ironman.

A title at the Carnahan Memorial came before Bassett collected his second PowerAde glory with a 10-3 win over Luke Simcox (Central Mountain, PA – No. 1 at 144). No. 12 Kade Brown (St. Edward, OH) and Noah Nininger (Staunton River, VA – No. 22 at 150) were other victims for the Crusher.

Bassett would not be tested again for the rest of the season as he demolished all of the competition he encountered during the home stretch to his first state championship, which was won with a 21-6 tech fall in the finals of Littlestown’s Cameron Mingee. As a freshman, Bassett had to sit out the postseason as his squad was not allowed to compete.

No. 3 Maddox Shaw (Thomas Jefferson, PA) moved to 145 and back during the year, before settling in at 139 for the state series.

Shaw started things off on a seriously high note by winning the 138lb Super 32 championship, including pinning Kelly, and wins over Alex Braun (Woodbury, MN – No. 14 at 144) and Landan Robideau (St. Michael Albertville, MN – No. 6 at 150).

Shaw tested the waters at 144 for the Beast of the East and was splashed with two losses, one to Nininger and the other to freshman Sonny Amato (Rumson-Fair Haven, NJ), and washed up in the seventh position. Amato went on to win a New Jersey state title at 144.

Daniel Zepeda

After challenging himself by moving up a couple of weight classes in the middle of the season, Gilroy's Daniel Zepeda returned to 138 where he won his second straight CIF State Wrestling Championship.

Shaw came back down to 139 for PowerAde, where he placed third, losing to Simcox but defeating Kade Brown and Honorable Mention Colin Kacena (Lake Highland Prep, FL).

The junior jumped back to 145 for a stretch that saw him claim gold at Escape the Rock and the Alleghany County Tournament. Shaw claimed a state gold at 139, after being second last year, with a win over No. 8 Dalton Perry (Central Mountain).

Kelly was fourth in Junior FS and Greco-Roman at last summer’s Fargo Nationals at 138. In FS, Kelly beat No. 5 Drew Gorman (Buford, GA).

A fourth place showing at Super 32 for Kelly was propped up by wins versus Perry, No. 7 Tyler Guerra (St. Charles East, IL) and Chase Van Hoven (Brooke Point, VA – No. 19 at 150).

Kelly beat Hollingsworth at the Hall of Fame Duals and won the Doc B Cowboy Hat with another win over Gorman in the finals and a decision of No. 6 Jace Roller (Bixby, OK). Kelly was second at states after being third a year ago.

Gorman was fifth at Super 32 at 132lbs, including a win over Logan Swensen (Wayzata, MN – No. 5 at 132). The KC Stampede bracket was claimed with a win over No. 19 Jackson Tucker (Hillsboro, MO). The Doc B silver came with a win over Kade Brown. The junior finished his year with a 7A state championship.

At various events going back to last year’s Doc B, Roller has put wins in the book against Ayoub, Hollingsworth, Nelson, and Shaw. Kelly avenged his loss to Roller at this year’s edition of Doc B.