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Irvine's tough little man: Tran-tastic

Vaqueros' 103-pounder was lone wrestler from schools in City of Irvine to advance to state meet.

March 05, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Daily Pilot
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

Two words, two little words.

Mention those words to a high school wrestler and watch his eyes light up.

State meet.

It's the ultimate goal — other than winning it, of course — of every high school wrestler. But the road to the CIF State Championship Meet is long and bumpy, treacherous and winding. And for most, that road ends with a dead end before reaching that final destination.

Irvine High's 103-pounder Nam Tran got there, wrestling Friday in Bakersfield at Rabobank Arena. He finished the meet with one win and two losses, and he was eliminated on the first day.

Getting there, though, was a major victory all by itself. He was the only Irvine area wrestler among the city's five high schools to qualify, placing ninth at the CIF Masters Meet Feb. 26 in Temecula.

The top nine at Masters qualify, meaning Tran needed every last ounce of effort to make it.

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In fact, Tran's Masters Meet was a remarkable display of will and determination, considering how close he teetered on the brink of elimination.

In the ninth-place match — meaning winner goes to state, loser is done for the season — Tran wrestled Gary Howe of Los Alamitos High. At the end of three periods, the score was tied, 0-0.

"All the other medal matches at 103 had finished up, so the entire crowd was watching Tran's match," Irvine High wrestling coach John Phillips said. "Then the announcer says, 'The winner goes to state and the loser goes home.' It made it that much more exciting."

In the first round of overtime, both wrestlers start on their feet; first takedown wins. But Tran and Howe went the one-minute period without scoring. The next stage of overtime is two 30-second periods, with each wrestler getting his choice to start on top, on bottom, or neutral. Tran chose down in the second overtime period and managed an escape for a 1-0 lead.

In the final overtime period, Howe chose down, but Tran rode him out for the 30 seconds and a 1-0 victory. And, an all-expenses-paid trip to Bakersfield.

"I heard that announcer, but at first I didn't know he was talking about my match," said Tran, a junior who finished with a 45-11 record. "Then I looked at the scoreboard and it said 0-0, so I knew it was me, and I just went after it."

Although that match was the culmination of a long, tough tournament, Tran faced elimination in three other matches in the meet after going to the consolation bracket.

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